Major causes of maternal and neonatal deaths

Major causes of maternal deaths globally

Figure 1.15 provides an overview of the main causes at a global level. Haemorrhage (ante and post partum) is the largest direct global cause of deaths at 27%, followed by hypertension (14%). In combination indirect causes also account for 27% of global deaths. There is an opportunity to refresh your understanding of direct and indirect causes in the reflection exercise below.

Chart showing maternal mortality causes

Figure 1.15: Major causes of maternal deaths globally

Distinguishing between direct and indirect maternal deaths

There are globally accepted definitions for both direct and indirect causes of maternal death which facilitate comparison and trend analysis at different levels. Defining the causes of deaths is also an integral part of ensuring effective health and social care systems for the reduction of deaths.

Check your knowledge: what are the differences between direct and indirect maternal deaths?

Major causes of maternal deaths regionally

Figure 1.16 presents regional data for the major causes of maternal death, arranged by region. Alternatively, you can view a comparison of causes across regions instead.

Graph of estimates for causes of maternal death

Figure 1.16: Estimates for main causes maternal of death worldwide. Point estimates are shown by bars (and squares) and 95% uncertainty intervals are shown by the horizontal lines. CoDD=cause of death distribution. ABO=abortion. EMB=embolism. HEM=haemorrhage. HYP=hypertension. SEP=sepsis. DIR=direct causes. IND=indirect causes. Dev=developed regions. N Africa=northern Africa. SSA=sub-Saharan Africa. E Asia=eastern Asia. S Asia=southern Asia. SE Asia=southeastern Asia. W Asia=western Asia. CC Asia=Caucasus and central Asia. LAC=Latin America and the Caribbean.

Data Source: Say et al

Major global causes of and trends in neonatal deaths

The previous section showed an overall downward trend in neonatal deaths. The following graph shows the major causes of neonatal mortality and trends over time. Deaths due to prematurity and due to birth asphyxia or trauma have seen the greatest reductions.

Neonatal deaths constitute 41.6% of all deaths for under-fives. So what are the major causes of neonatal mortality globally?

Figure 1.17 below shows you the major causes of neonatal mortality trends over time.

Neonatal deaths 0-27 days

Figure 1.17: Numbers of neonatal deaths (0-27 days) from 2000-2012, per 1,000 live births

Distinguishing between early and late neonatal deaths

Figures 1.18 and 1.19 present data for neonatal deaths disaggregated by early and late neonatal groups, as presented by Oza et al, 2015:

Risks of neonatal death, 2000–2013

Figure 1.18: Global cause-specific risks of neonatal death for the early and late neonatal periods, 2000-2013

Data Source: Oza et al, 2015
Global cause-specific numbers of neonatal deaths, proportions and risks

Figure 1.19: Global cause-specific numbers of neonatal deaths, proportions and risks in 2013

Data Source: Oza et al, 2015

Major causes of neonatal deaths globally

Figure 1.20 provides an overview of the main causes at a global level.

Graph showing cause-specific risk of neonatal death by MSG region

Figure 1.20: Cause-specific risk of neonatal death by Millennium Development Goal region in 2013

Data Source: Oza et al, 2015

Are the existing post natal practices meeting international standards? Are they adequate for the specific needs?

Consider your own context: the challanges of associations between maternal health and newborn deaths
Major causes of maternal and neonatal deaths was last modified: June 18th, 2015 by Amy Hall

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