Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) account for almost 65% of women’s deaths around the world, and the majority of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. Women with diabetesanemiacancerobesityhypertensive pregnancy disorders and several other NCDs are at a higher risk of developing childbirth-related complications, and so are their babies. Children born to mothers with NCDs are more likely to experience adverse health outcomes later in life. Furthermore, perinatal mental health issues can continue after delivery and in extreme cases lead to self-harm, one of the leading causes of women’s deaths globally.

As the world continues to undergo the “obstetric transition” from mostly direct causes of maternal mortality to more indirect causes, addressing the effects of NCDs on maternal health is becoming increasingly urgent. Interventions designed to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity, particularly in low-resource settings, have traditionally focused heavily on obstetric complications and intrapartum care, while less attention has been given to the complex “indirect causes” of maternal deaths and their underlying risk factors. A more holistic approach to improving maternal health is needed, which includes addressing the global burden of NCDs contributing to maternal mortality and morbidity.


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In November 2017, the Maternal Health Task Force (MHTF) hosted a panel discussion to mark the launch of the fifth MHTF-PLOS collection, “Noncommunicable Diseases and Maternal Health Around the Globe.”

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