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Maternal Morbidity: An Overlooked issue

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Bangladesh health services are highly skewed towards MDG goals and that’s why more focused on maternal mortality. But maternal mortality statistics are indicative of the overall state of maternal health for a particular population. But they are only the tip of the iceberg. For every woman who dies, some twenty others face serious or long-lasting consequences. (UNFPA website) Women who survive severe, life-threatening complications often require lengthy recovery times and may face long-term physical, psychological, social and economic consequences. The chronic ill-health of a mother puts surviving children, who depend on their mothers for food, care and emotional support, at great risk.

Obstetric fistula is one of the most devastating complications of childbearing, but there are many others. These may include anaemia, infertility, damaged pelvic structure, chronic infection, depression and impaired productivity. These problems, in turn, may lead to others, including marital problems, household dissolution, social isolation, shortened life spans and suicide. Costs of medical care and lost productivity may drive women and their families into poverty.

Uterine prolapse is a debilitating condition which can limit a woman’s mobility, making it impossible for her to perform routine household chores or have sex. Uterine prolapse can be triggered by difficult, prolonged labor, frequent pregnancies, inadequate obstetric care, and carrying heavy weights. The condition is often accompanied by chronic back pains and urinary incontinence. Many women who suffer from it are abandoned by their husbands and end up as social outcasts in their own communities.

Perinatal depression is a severe disorder, which needs appropriate treatment and care. Perinatal depression is associated with maternal physical morbidity, substance abuse and suicide. Gender-based violence can be a cause of depression and can also increase a woman’s risk of it. The consequences of maternal depression on the child can be severe as well, including premature delivery, low birth weight, malnutrition, poor growth and stunted emotional, cognitive and behavioural development.

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