Maternal mortality, stillbirth and measures of obstetric care in developing and developed countries

Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 2007 Feb;96(2):139-46. doi: 10.1016/j.ijgo.2006.10.010. Epub 2007 Feb 1.


Objective: Maternal mortality and stillbirths are important adverse pregnancy outcomes, especially in developing countries. Because underlying causes of both outcomes appeared similar, the relationship between maternal mortality, stillbirth and three measures of obstetrical care were studied.

Methods: Using data provided by the World Health Organization from 188 developed and developing countries, correlations and linear regression analyses between maternal mortality and stillbirth rates and cesarean section rates, skilled delivery attendance, and >or=4 prenatal visits) were developed.

Results: Stillbirth and maternal mortality rates were strongly correlated, with about 5 stillbirths for each maternal death. However, the ratio increased from about 2 to 1 in least developed countries to 50 to 1 in the most developed countries. In developing countries, as the cesarean section rates increased from 0 to about 10%, both maternal mortality and stillbirth rates decreased sharply. Skilled delivery attendance was not associated with significant reductions in maternal mortality or stillbirth rates until coverage rates of about 40% were achieved. Four or more antenatal visits were not associated with significant reductions in maternal deaths until about 60% coverage was achieved. The same measure was associated with only modest decreases in stillbirth.

Conclusion: Across countries, stillbirth was significantly associated with maternal mortality. Both stillbirth and maternal mortality were similarly related to all three measures of obstetric care. An increase in cesarean section rates from 0 to 10% was associated with sharp decreases in both maternal mortality and stillbirths.

MeSH terms

  • Developed Countries*
  • Developing Countries*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Maternal Mortality*
  • Obstetrics / standards*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome*
  • Stillbirth*