I remember being eight years old and lost when I found out my mother died due to a childbirth complication. My father was devastated, my younger siblings were crying, and I had no idea what to do. I was eight, and still, this vivid memory lives within me more than a decade later. Maternal death is a serious global issue. Because of it, children from all around the world lose their mothers at an early age. Though some are fortunate enough to be put in the arms of loving guardians, some still suffer for their whole lives due to that one event that changed them. In this blog, I want to raise awareness on this global issue by discussing maternal mortality statistics, the potential causes of maternal death, and its effects on the remaining family of the mother.
Maternal death or maternal mortality is death caused by childbirth or pregnancy complications. Moreover, CDC also defines maternal death as “a death while pregnant or within 42 days of the end of pregnancy”. According to the World Health Organization, 75% of all maternal deaths are caused by either of the following: severe bleeding, infections after childbirth, high blood pressure during pregnancy, child delivery complications, or unsafe abortions. WHO statistics show that 94% of maternal deaths take place in low and lower-middle-income countries, and most of these deaths could have been stopped. Though the global maternal mortality ratio has declined by about 38% from 2000 to 2017, childbirth-related deaths are still “unacceptably high”, says the World Health Organization.
When we discuss the problems surrounding maternal death, we must look at two sides: the before or the issues that are potential causes, and the after, the effects of maternal death on the mother’s family and friends. First, the causes of maternal death vary. While it is given that maternal death is likely to be related to the mother’s health and habits during pregnancy, it can also be connected to the mother’s state of living: her socioeconomic status, the culture she grew up in, and her access to quality healthcare. For example, a pregnant woman living in poverty who has no access to quality healthcare has a multiplied risk of childbirth complications. Furthermore, an unmarried pregnant woman who grew up in a culture that does not openly accept sex before marriage may be more likely to have a secret and unsafe abortion, thus contributing to maternal death causes. Poverty, cultural beliefs, lack of information, and lack of access to quality healthcare are just some of the main factors that prevent women from receiving the proper care they need during pregnancy (WHO).
When we talk about the after-effects of losing someone to maternal death, a whole new discussion arises. The experience of a child, a parent, a spouse, a relative, and a friend, is always different. As someone who lost her mother at a young age, I can say that it still is the biggest turning point of my life. At the age of eight, I had to cope with life being the eldest of a one-parent family. Though we were put under the guidance of my grandparents, adjusting to life without my mother was difficult. In the first years of her death, I struggled in school, living in a new country, and handling my emotions. Parental loss, according to a study conducted by David Brent, MD, and Nadine Melhem, Ph.D., could negatively impact the child’s social and academic functioning for the first two years after the event. The study also found that children who lose their parents before the age of 12 were also more likely to have depression. I can only imagine how my even younger siblings could have felt, especially my youngest sister who never met my mom. Whether one is a family member or a close friend, losing someone to maternal death can affect an individual very deeply.
Losing someone close to you is hard. I’m sure we are all aware of that. Like that, losing a mother, a wife, a daughter, a significant other, or a friend to maternal death can be both traumatizing and depressing. As maternal death is still a serious global issue, posing a high risk especially to certain countries like South Sudan, Chad, and Somalia (UNICEF), I believe more research on maternal death should be made and more initiatives to prevent it should be implemented. Maternal mortality rates, though already decreasing, should decrease even rapidly.
CDC. “Pregnancy Mortality Surveillance System.” CDC, www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/maternal-mortality/pregnancy-mortality-surveillance-system.htm#:%7E:text=A%20maternal%20death%20is%20defined,from%20accidental%20or%20incidental%20causes. Accessed 26 Aug. 2021.
“In Longest and Most Detailed Study of Pediatric Grief Following Parental Loss to Date, Department Researchers Find Increased Rates of Depression and Functional Impairment.” University of Pittsburgh Department of Psychiatry, 16 Nov. 2018, www.psychiatry.pitt.edu/news/longest-and-most-detailed-study-pediatric-grief-following-parental-loss-date-department.
UNICEF. “Maternal Mortality Rates and Statistics.” UNICEF, data.unicef.org/topic/maternal-health/maternal-mortality.
WHO. “Maternal Mortality.” WHO, 19 Sept. 2019, www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/maternal-mortality.