Summary: Maternal mortality and morbidity, death, disease and disability arising from childbearing, exact a heavy, needless toll on women and their families in much of the developing world. Available evidence suggests that in poor countries of disparate circumstances, one-fourth to one-half of all deaths of women of childbearing age result from pregnancy. In such countries, maternal mortality is generally the leading cause of death among young women, at the height of their productivity and family responsibility. In all, about 500,000 women die from pregnancy-related causes every year. Almost 300,000 of these deaths occur in South and West Asia, 150,000 in Africa, 34,000 in Latin America, 12,000 in East Asian developing countries, but only 6,000 in all developed countries. Over half of the deaths in South and West Asia and Africa and many of the Latin American deaths could be prevented with known technology at low cost. This paper outlines practical approaches, emphasizing cost-effective health and family planning measures, that can reduce maternal mortality and morbidity at a cost affordable to most developing countries. It specifically recommends stronger community based health care, stronger referral facilities and "alarm" and transport systems for high risk women and emergencies.
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