Maternal mortality has gained importance in research and policy since the mid-1980s. Thaddeus and Maine recognized early on that timely and adequate treatment for obstetric complications were a major factor in reducing maternal deaths. Their work offered a new approach to examining maternal mortality, using a three-phase framework to understand the gaps in access to adequate management of obstetric emergencies: phase I--delay in deciding to seek care by the woman and/or her family; phase II--delay in reaching an adequate health care facility; and phase III--delay in receiving adequate care at that facility. Recently, efforts have been made to strengthen health systems' ability to identify complications that lead to maternal deaths more rapidly. This article shows that the combination of the "three delays" framework with the maternal "near-miss" approach, and using a range of information-gathering methods, may offer an additional means of recognizing a critical event around childbirth. This approach can be a powerful tool for policymakers and health managers to guarantee the principles of human rights within the context of maternal health care, by highlighting the weaknesses of systems and obstetric services.
Copyright © 2012 Reproductive Health Matters. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.