Guest Blog: A Global Focus on Maternal Mortality: Saving Mothers, Giving Life

Herbert B. Peterson, MD

For most families, the arrival of a new child is a joyous and celebrated occasion. However, in many countries in the developing world, having a baby can be a dangerous undertaking: Approximately 800 women die during childbirth each day; 99% of all maternal deaths occur in the developing world. The loss of a mother is a tragedy for her family and her community.

Imagine you are a physician in rural Uganda: You know there is a high-risk patient who lives in a village several hours away from your regional hospital. She has no transportation, no running water, no electricity, and no cell phone access. Despite the fact that you have the skills to assist in a safe delivery, the barriers to access will likely prevent this woman from coming to the hospital, greatly increasing the chance she will die in childbirth.

Complications that cause most maternal deaths in the developing world are severe bleeding, high blood pressure, obstructed labor, and infections. Our challenge and our hope is this: We have proven life-saving interventions routinely used in the US and other industrialized nations to prevent these deaths. And while they have the potential to dramatically improve maternal outcomes, it has been very difficult to implement these interventions in low-resource settings.

We now have a wonderful window of opportunity with a groundswell of support to develop initiatives to improve maternal and infant health. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (The College) is playing an integral role in Saving Mothers, Giving Life (SMGL), an innovative public-private partnership that aims to reduce maternal mortality in the developing world. As a founding member of SMGL, The College has joined with the governments of US and Norway, Merck for Mothers, and Every Mother Counts to dramatically accelerate progress in preventing maternal death. Work has already begun in Uganda and Zambia with a goal to reduce the number of maternal deaths by up to 50% in a year, and plans are under way to expand our reach into other developing nations disproportionately affected by maternal mortality.

I’m both honored and excited to represent The College and be a part of SMGL. This coalition has a unique opportunity to make a difference. I firmly believe we can and we will. Watch for updates and opportunities on The College website to get involved in these important initiatives.

4 thoughts on “Guest Blog: A Global Focus on Maternal Mortality: Saving Mothers, Giving Life

  1. I am writing to request a swift and unequivocal response to the assertion made by Rep. Aiken from Missouri. I am not asking the ACOG to censure Rep. Aiken or petition to have him removed from membership on the Congressional Committee on Science and Technology Policy, although both of these actions would be appropriate. You must be aware of the congressman’s comments about women being able to “shut that whole thing down” if being forcibly raped, thus preventing pregnancy.

    My deep concern has to do with public information and education regarding the prevention of unwanted pregnancies. Having been an adolescent girl myself, and having had numerous adolescent girls as close friends at one time, and having raised two adolescent girls myself, I can assure you that many unwanted or unintended pregnancies occur because the young woman is uninformed about her own sexuality and the process of fertilization and conception. This is only somewhat less accurate in these days of sex education in the schools, except where the only method of birth control being taught is abstinence. There are many young women who truly believe it “won’t happen to them” if they simply don’t want it to happen. There is a great deal of “advice” from friends and older females who were themselves never fully educated, as well as young boys who want to convince the girl that she has nothing to worry about. This appeal by Rep. Aiken to an outright piece of disinformation is not only despicable, but also very dangerous. If the ACOG takes seriously its mission to educate the public on health concerns, I believe a swift and unequivocal statement is both appropriate and necessary. This can obviously be done without attacking Rep. Aiken, simply in the name of correcting a misunderstanding of the process of conception that the congressman claims to have received from “doctors”.

    The courtesy of a response will be appreciate

  2. Thank you Dr Peterson for leading ACOG’s efforts with SMGL. With this program and the other activities ACOG has begun since the ACM 2012 will be recognized as the year ACOG fully joined the Global effort to reduce Maternal Mortality.
    You can count on so many of our ACOG fellows to join you through educational efforts, Volunteerism, and donations.
    I look forward to your regular updates through this Blog.
    Owen Montgonery

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