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Blood Pressure Hemorrhage Killing Pregnant Women in Developing World

Abortion complications also threaten poor women's lives, study finds

TUESDAY, March 28, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Pregnant or recently pregnant women in the developing world are most likely to die of high blood pressure or hemorrhage than any other pregnancy-linked cause, researchers report.

Reporting in the March 28 issue of The Lancet, a World Health Organization team analyzed more than 35,000 maternal deaths for women who died during pregnancy or within 42 days of delivery.

They found that hemorrhage was the leading cause (30 percent) of maternal deaths in Africa and Asia, while high blood pressure was the leading cause of maternal deaths in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The study also found that abortion-related deaths were also high in all those regions, along with some eastern European countries.

"This systematic review highlights the need for increased emphasis on programs relevant to specific settings such as the prevention and treatment of hemorrhage both prepartum and postpartum," study author Metin Gulmezoglu said in a prepared statement. "At the very least, most postpartum hemorrhage deaths should be avoided by appropriate diagnosis and management."

"Hypertensive disorders and sepsis [blood infection] continue to be concerns," Gulmezoglu added. However, better availability of magnesium sulphate -- which can be used to control hypertensive seizures -- could help lower the death toll linked to high blood pressure.

"The continuing death toll due to complications of unsafe abortion is a call for increased attention to access to services that can help women avoid unwanted births, Gulmezoglu said.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has information about women's health and pregnancy.

SOURCE: The Lancet, news release, March 27, 2006
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