The Maternal and Child Morbidity, Mortality Surveillance Unit of the Family Health Bureau of the Ministry of Health informed that many maternal deaths in the recent past have been due to heart and respiratory diseases.

According to official statistics, 64% of the total maternal deaths (113) last year were not directly related to the conditions brought on by the pregnancy.

The leading causes of maternal deaths were said to be heart disease, respiratory diseases and obstetric hemorrhage.

National Programme Manager of the Unit, Dr. Kapila Jayaratne declared that each and every pregnant mother dying in the country is investigated by the Ministry of Health and reviewed in a no-fault finding manner subsequent to visiting each and every District.
“It is notable that the causality profile has changed from direct obstetric to indirect medical causes. Cause-specific mortality ratios for almost all direct causes have come down,” he added.

The Districts of Kurunegala, Colombo and Gampaha reported a higher number of deaths with 12, 11 and 10 respectively. However, the highest maternal mortality ratio (MMR) was reported from the Mullaitivu District (02 deaths and 1,120 live births). Kegalle, Trincomalee and Mannar are the other Districts with higher MMRs.

Many of the women who died (72%) were from rural and estate sectors. There were many socially-stigmatized pregnancies ending as maternal deaths. Muslim women were at higher risk of dying due to a pregnancy-related cause.

A significant proportion of the deceased women (26%) were elderly, above 35 years of age. A majority of them (85%) were well-educated.

Nearly half of those who died (48%), died during their third or higher pregnancy. Sixty percent died in an advanced stage of the pregnancy. More than two thirds (67%) died after delivery. Eighty-eight (78%) died in a hospital.

The need for family planning being unmet was identified in 26 cases (23%). Delays were identified in 78 (69%) cases. A proportion of 54% did not seek medical care in time. Five women had reaching difficulties. In 34 cases, optimal care was not received from the health sector. Many (by number 67 and by percentage 59%) were identified as preventable deaths.

In 2015, the timely notification of maternal deaths improved to 90%. Coverage of conducting post-mortems was 96%. Receipt of death audit reports was achieved fully (100%) prior to the conducting of the national maternal death reviews. Review of all 200 probable maternal deaths reported during the year was 100%. Finally, 113 maternal deaths were identified to calculate the national MMR of 33.7 per 100,000 live births. (RLJ)