According to estimates released at the first world childbirth mortality congress opening on March 10, more than a million women and 8-10 million babies die in childbirth around the world every year. Poor childbirth conditions also result in another five million infants being handicapped for life. Congress president Dr. Daniel Weinstein of Israel said that hemorrhaging was the leading cause of death, accounting for 25% or 140,000 of the 585,000 childbirth deaths occurring in the 78 countries studied. One hundred thousand cases resulted from blood poisoning or septicemia, 75,000 from clandestine abortions and hypertension, 40,000 with obstruction of labor. The remaining 20 % of deaths resulted from indirect causes including anemia, diabetes, malaria and heart disease. Noted among the risk factors were access to emergency medical car, insufficient time between births, and age over 35. Weinstein also noted that girls receive less food than boys in some cultures where food is scare.
The disparities between childbirth mortality rates in different countries are great. The risk of death at childbirth of a Somalian woman is one in seven while the risk for a Spanish woman is one in 9,200. The risk in the U.S. is one in 3,500 compared to one in 7,700 in Canada. The World Health Organization and the United Nations’ Children’s Fund released the figures, compiled in 78 countries that comprise about one-third of the world’s population.