The true cost of maternal death: individual tragedy impacts family, community and nations

Reprod Health. 2015 Jun 17:12:56. doi: 10.1186/s12978-015-0046-3.


The death of a woman in pregnancy and childbirth is globally considered an individual tragedy and a human rights violation. Given the inequities in death that occur to marginalized, poor, and vulnerable women in low and middle income countries, there is no doubt that maternal death is a horrific injustice. However, the long term global burden of disease goes far beyond this tragedy. Recent research is demonstrating that there are disastrous consequences in infant and child mortality, loss of economic opportunities, spiraling cycles of poverty in the families and communities where women die giving birth. The journal Reproductive Health has published a supplement "The True Cost of Maternal Death," which includes original research from two major study groups. Harvard's Francois-Xavier Bagnoud (FXB) Center for Health and Human Rights conducted a multi-country, mixed methods study of the impact of maternal mortality on newborn health and survival, family functioning, interrupted education and economic degradation in four high maternal mortality countries, Tanzania, South Africa, Malawi, and Ethiopia. A collaborative group from Family Care International (FCI), the International Center of Research on Women (ICRW), and the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI)-Center for Disease Control (CDC)-Research Collaboration conducted research into true costs of maternal death in Kenya. These articles demonstrate the enormous costs that ripple out from the maternal death, and the intergenerational and multi-sectorial disruptions related to maternal mortality. It is important in this period of post-MDG strategy planning period that donors, governments, and NGOs be aware not only of the individual level tragedy of the loss of a mother's life, but also the financial and health costs associated with maternal mortality, and to keep the focus on maternal health as a key issue in all aspects of development, not just health.

MeSH terms

  • Caregivers / economics
  • Cost of Illness
  • Ethiopia
  • Family
  • Female
  • Health Care Costs
  • Human Rights Abuses*
  • Humans
  • Infant Health
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Malawi
  • Maternal Death* / psychology
  • Maternal Mortality
  • Poverty
  • Pregnancy
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • South Africa
  • Tanzania