Maternal Health and C-sections in Iraq

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Most of the news out of Iraq revolves around the war and violence. Even for those of us that work in the maternal health field, maternal health in Iraq isn’t something we hear a lot about. Given the difficultly of getting maternal health data in any developing country, the wars in Iraq have made it even more difficult.

The maternal mortality estimates from the United Nations and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation show the difficulty in getting good data through their disparity:


Year UN estimate IHME estimate Difference
1990 93 212 128%
2000 84 174 107%
2008 75 130 73%


A report from the Associated Press highlights some new data on births in Iraq and looks at the rise in cesarean sections, which account for 79% of births at private hospitals and 32% birth overall:

The rise in C-sections is primarily due to private hospitals, where patients pay out of pocket, and it’s already having repercussions for women and Iraq’s overburdened health care system.


Doctors report longer medical stays for women who undergo Cesareans, more women needing blood transfusions and suffering from infections, and babies with serious breathing problems.


Although C-sections can save lives when they are necessary, Adel Muhsen, the Health Ministry’s inspector general, say doctors’ greed is often behind the decision for the surgery. At private hospitals, C-sections cost two to three times as much as vaginal births.