Maternal Morbidity: Neglected Dimension of Safe Motherhood in the Developing World

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Late last year, the Woodrow Wilson Center hosted a Maternal Health Dialogue Series event on maternal morbidities in developing countries based in part on a report written by Karen Hardee, Jill Gay, and former MHTF Director Ann Blanc.


The report has now been published in Global Public Health and is available online. The article explores the neglected topic of maternal morbidity:

Maternal morbidity affects women, their families, communities and societies (National Research Council 2000). Complications force women and their families to incur costs and debt for treatment (Ronsmans 2009), and can affect women’s ability to work, resulting in loss of productivity and negative outcomes for infants and children (Hoque and Powell-Jackson 2010). An analysis of the global costs of maternal disability calculated an annual cost of US$6.8 billion (Stanton 2010).


This article addresses the scope of maternal morbidity, including how it is defined and measured, and how programmes are addressing maternal morbidity. It addresses six selected relatively neglected aspects of maternal morbidity that are prevalent in developing countries: anaemia, maternal depression, infertility, fistula, uterine rupture and scarring and uterine prolapse1 to illustrate the range of acute and chronic morbidities that can affect women related to pregnancy and childbearing. This article ends with recommendations for key actions to address maternal morbidity.