Simple hospital improvements and better doctor training could save thousands of Third World women from dying or being permanently injured during childbirth, a UNICEF study said today.
Nearly 600,000 women a year die giving birth - roughly 1,600 a day, 20 percent more than earlier estimates - the study shows in gruesomely graphic detail."These are the deaths not of the ill, or of the very old, or of the very young, but of healthy women in the prime of their lives," said Peter Adamson, the report's author.
For every woman who dies, about 30 more suffer injuries and disabilities such as rupture of the uterus, pelvic inflammatory disease and loss of urine control, said the report.
It was compiled with help from Johns Hopkins University and the World Health Organization.
"At least 15 million women a year sustain the kind of damage in pregnancy and childbirth that will have a profound effect on their lives," Adamson said. "It is time to amplify the screams."
Many women are needlessly, painfully and often permanently injured for want of basic services or a doctor who knows how to perform a Caesarean section.
"There are thousands of hospitals that, with minimum upgrading, could provide adequate obstetric care," said Deborah Maine, an expert on maternal health. "But many are unusable for the lack of $100 worth of maintenance."
One in 13 women in sub-Saharan Africa and one in 35 in southern Asia die of complications from pregnancy or childbirth. By contrast, the maternal death rate in the United States is one in 3,300, in Western Europe is one in 3,200 and in Canada is one in 7,300.
"They die, these hundreds of thousands of women whose lives come to an end, in their teens and 20s and 30s . . . pumping blood onto the floor of a bus or a bullock cart or blood-soaked stretcher as their families and friends search in vain for help," Adamson said.
More than 140,000 women a year die from such hemorrhaging, the report says. Another 100,000 die of sepsis, the poisoning of the bloodstream by infection from an unhealed uterus or pieces of unexpelled placenta.
An estimated 75,000 others die from self-inflicted abortions, and about 75,000 die from pregnancy-related brain and kidney damage. Some 40,000 die of obstructed labor.