Background: Women continue to die in unacceptably large numbers around the world as a result of pregnancy, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. Part of the problem is a lack of accurate, population-based information characterising the issues and informing solutions. Population surveillance sites, such as those operated within the INDEPTH Network, have the potential to contribute to bridging the information gaps.
Objective: To describe patterns of pregnancy-related mortality at INDEPTH Network Health and Demographic Surveillance System sites in sub-Saharan Africa and southeast Asia in terms of maternal mortality ratio (MMR) and cause-specific mortality rates.
Design: Data on individual deaths among women of reproductive age (WRA) (15-49) resident in INDEPTH sites were collated into a standardised database using the INDEPTH 2013 population standard, the WHO 2012 verbal autopsy (VA) standard, and the InterVA model for assigning cause of death.
Results: These analyses are based on reports from 14 INDEPTH sites, covering 14,198 deaths among WRA over 2,595,605 person-years observed. MMRs varied between 128 and 461 per 100,000 live births, while maternal mortality rates ranged from 0.11 to 0.74 per 1,000 person-years. Detailed rates per cause are tabulated, including analyses of direct maternal, indirect maternal, and incidental pregnancy-related deaths across the 14 sites.
Conclusions: As expected, these findings confirmed unacceptably high continuing levels of maternal mortality. However, they also demonstrate the effectiveness of INDEPTH sites and of the VA methods applied to arrive at measurements of maternal mortality that are essential for planning effective solutions and monitoring programmatic impacts.
Keywords: Africa; Asia; INDEPTH Network; cause of death; maternal mortality; verbal autopsy.