Causes of maternal mortality in rural Bangladesh, 1976-85

Bull World Health Organ. 1988;66(5):643-51.


Of a total of 1037 women of reproductive age who died during the period 1976-85 in the Matlab area that was under demographic surveillance, 387 (37%) were maternal deaths. The mean maternal mortality over the 10-year period was 5.5 per 1000 live births (101 per 100 000 women of reproductive age). Major causes of maternal death, which were assessed using a combination of record review and field interviews, included postpartum haemorrhage (20%), complications of abortion (18%), eclampsia (12%), violence and injuries (9%), concomitant medical causes (9%), postpartum sepsis (7%), and obstructed labour (6.5%). Deaths caused by postpartum haemorrhage were positively associated with both maternal age and parity, whereas those caused by eclampsia and injuries were more common among young and low-parity women. If maternal deaths arising from complications of abortion are disregarded, 20% of all maternal deaths occurred during pregnancy, 44% during labour and the two days following delivery, and 36% during the remaining postpartum period.These findings support the need to develop a service strategy to address the risks of childbearing and childbirth in areas such as rural Bangladesh, where almost all deliveries take place at home. This strategy must be based not only on preventive and educational interventions, including family planning and antenatal care, but also on systematic attendance at home deliveries by trained professional midwives, backed up by an effective chain of referral.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Spontaneous / mortality
  • Bangladesh
  • Cause of Death*
  • Female
  • Health Planning
  • Humans
  • Maternal Health Services / standards
  • Maternal Mortality*
  • Obstetric Labor Complications / mortality
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / mortality
  • Puerperal Disorders / mortality