Cases of Obstetric Deaths Increase in the Philippines

By Kathreen Kaye Dacanay

Photo Courtesy by wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock

Scrolling across social media, I stumbled upon an article reporting the increasing number of mothers' deaths upon childbirth in the Philippines. This frightening scenario is known as a direct obstetric death – but what does this mean and why does this matter?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), direct maternal or obstetric deaths are rooted in complications during the pregnancy stage. This includes complications during childbearing, labor, incorrect treatments, and even puerperium, which is a long six-week-period taking place between the childbirth and the time before the mother’s organs return to their nonpregnant state.

Many clinical causes lead to this kind of death, and these issues are outcomes of the process of pregnancy – childbearing and birth giving – which means that these problems can occur to every pregnant woman. The mother's vulnerability is not only before and during delivery but also extends to the following days after giving birth. An example would be postpartum hemorrhage, defined as the heavy bleeding after giving birth. As per existing statistics, 1 to 5 women in 100 experience this severe condition.

Another example occurs during the childbirth procedure. While it is normal to lose blood during this procedure, especially if the mother is expected to have a cesarean (c-section), misplaced treatment may cause a drop in blood pressure, and if not corrected early, the mistreatment may lead to shock and eventual death.

According to Macro Trends, the current birth rate of our country as of the year is 19.778 births per 1000 people, while the rate of newborn babies dropped by 2.31% from 2021. Obstetric deaths rank as the 44th leading cause of death in the Philippines. As reported by Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), there's a current count of 468 deaths, an increase of 43 deaths from the previous year.

The increasing number of these incidents also reflects the country's lack of decent healthcare facilities. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, our country was forced to divert its attention and funds from COVID-19 cases, which made the health institutions not fully prepared for this kind of emergency. Although, people with higher status are less prone to this incident, as they are more capable of availing quality and more expensive health services, leaving a very evident gap between the rich and the poor.

“It poses the challenge to improve our local health system for emergency obstetric and newborn care, which was affected during the pandemic,” stated Lotito Tacardon, Officer-in-Charge and Officer Director of the Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM).
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