Maternal mortality in Argentina is about average, both for the region and for the world at large. The current range of maternal deaths in Argentina stands between 43 and 82 deaths per 100,000 live births 1 2. Even those who gathered the data about the lowest reported number indicated that under reporting was likely at least 50% 3.
However, Argentina has made progress and they should be commended for the efforts that they have made thus far. One legal change that Argentina has made that they should be commended for, is counting a mother who dies of complications arising from child birth for at least 42 days after the actual birth of the child, as maternal mortality 4. A major contributing factor in the comparatively lower maternal mortality rates has been a reduction in the over all birth rate as well as rising wealth and access to better hospital care.
Unfortunately some of these changes also reflect some unintended consequences that have complicated the maternal mortality picture.
To begin with contraceptives are not widely available in Argentina. Lack of access to contraceptives combined with increasing economic opportunities for women outside the home as lead to an increase in illegal and unsafe abortions. Death due to these abortions account for nearly 1/3 of all maternal deaths are due to complications resulting from illegal abortions. This is especially problematic for the poorest women who cannot afford safer clandestine abortions.
The other major contributing factor is a catch all term called direct obstetric causes. This generally refers to hemorrhage (at any stage in the pregnancy or post partum), dystocia (difficult child birth), hypertension, or sepsis (a form of blood poisoning). These causes account for 53% of all maternal deaths. And they nearly all 100% preventable given adequate care. Poverty, then, is the leading cause of maternal death in Argentina. The CRC document cited above found that “of the maternal deaths analyzed, 72% corresponded to women from low-income segments of the population and 13.8% to women from middle-income segments. The services available to higher-risk groups are of lower quality and less able to deal effectively with problems” 5.
In summary, while Argentina should be praised for the steps they have taken to reduce their maternal mortality rates additional effort is needed to direct resources to the most vulnerable populations to ensure that not only are the mothers healthy, but that they are able to stay alive and healthy to care for their children and help bring them out of poverty instead of condemning them to a life of poverty when the mother dies.
Fortunately, because of the smaller population over all, and the relatively low birth rate, the maternal mortality rate averages between 300 and 800 maternal deaths a year. This means that a relatively small investment could substantially reduce the mortality rate. That is the good news. Now the politician need to find the political will to do something about it.
- CLADEM and RUDA – Uruguay Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defense of Women’s Rights – and Red Uruguaya de Autonomías y Mizangas – Grupo de Mujeres Jóvenes Afrodescendietes – Shadow Report of CLADEM Uruguay – Mizangas and RUDA – 2008 pg 44 ↩
- UNFPA – State of the World Population 2006 – A Passage to Hope – Women and International Migration – 2006 pg 94-96 ↩
- UN – Convention on the Rights of the Child – http://www.ohchr.org/english/bodies/crc/ 1999 para 70 ↩
- UN – Committee on Economic – Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), http://www.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cescr/ 1997 para 222 ↩
- ibid ↩