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  • Writer's pictureCommunity Wellbeing San Diego

Why are Maternal Mortality Rates High for Nigerian Women?

Losing a mother is hard at any stage of life. The death of a mother during childbirth is especially difficult because it has lifelong effects on the physical and emotional wellbeing of her newborn child.

That’s why global organizations have been trying for years to reduce maternal mortality rates. The phenomenon happens everywhere, but Nigeria alone accounts for around 20% of these deaths.

What Maternal Mortality Looks Like in Nigeria

Nigeria has around 200 million people. From 2005-2015, that 20% translated into over 600,000 deaths and at least 900,000 near-miss situations according to WHO.

The effects of these statistics don’t stop with the death of a woman. They are felt throughout future generations as the children of these mothers grow up.

What causes a woman to die during childbirth?

The actual cause of death is generally associated with complications that occur during pregnancy and childbirth.

The WHO attributes 75% of all maternal deaths to the following 4 causes:

  1. Severe bleeding

  2. Infections

  3. High blood pressure during pregnancy

  4. Unsafe abortions

These leading causes are all preventable with better education, access to health care, and optimal maternal health during a pregnancy.

However, low or lower-income countries struggle to provide these for their population. This means that Nigerian women in at-risk communities are likely to continue facing high death rates unless the Nigerian economy can support more investment into education and healthcare.

What contributes to increased risk of maternal mortality?

Material mortality rates are affected by a number of risk factors. For a woman, the main ones are education, access to resources and safe health care services.

Education about health, hygiene, and nutrition are lacking among women in at-risk communities, and access to a health care facility is not possible for some women depending on their location. Even when they do reach a facility or have access to a midwife, that does not necessarily save their lives.

For the healthcare system, there is also a lack of education, infrastructure and support, which increases the chances of inferior health care being provided. This puts women at risk of dying from complications either during or shortly after birth.

Poverty is the Root of Health-Related Issues

If we really look at these issues, it is clear that the biggest underlying risk factor is poverty.

Poverty can prevent or limit access to adequate health care, including both preventative and reactive treatment. Cost, distance from a healthcare facility, education, gender and cultural beliefs also play a significant role in women’s ability to have quality care during delivery.

This means that maternal mortality rates are influenced primarily by poverty.

Most of the complications that cause women to die during childbirth are preventable, but the solutions are not readily available to most Nigerian women in at-risk communities.

For example, poor nutrition leads to a multitude of complications for both mother and child, yet with access to the right food, these issues are entirely preventable.

Women in at-risk communities may already struggle to meet their own nutritional needs. When they become pregnant, especially unexpectedly, it can be even more challenging to meet the nutritional intake needs for both themselves and their developing child.

When women consistently don’t have adequate intake of key nutrients, they are more likely to experience complications during birth, and give birth to babies with birth defects.

Poor nutrition does not come from just lacking food, it also comes from a lack of variety. Diets should include a variety of whole foods (like different types of vegetables and fruit, quality protein, and whole grains) to meet a pregnant woman’s nutrient needs.

Intervention can help mitigate risk factors; however, lack of access to quality medical care is a real problem for women living outside of major cities.

This is due to a lack of infrastructure --> an emphasis placed on preventative measures.

How can maternal mortality rates be decreased in Nigeria?

The best way to reduce maternal mortality rates is to provide Nigerian women with reliable, safe preventative care and improve their health literacy.

Preventative care is one of the most effective strategies a country can adopt because the costs are generally lower than treating health problems after they occur.

In a low or lower-income country, utilizing preventative measures can reduce the burden on an underdeveloped health care system, and help lower the number of people who need emergency attention.

As for health literacy, women can make better decisions about their own health when they have the knowledge.

In developed countries, we see doctors, nurses and patients do basic things like sterilize equipment and wash their hands. And we do this because we know that proper hygiene can prevent infection. That knowledge comes from our education and health literacy.

Better knowledge regarding nutrition can also help reduce mortality rates. Healthy women tend to have healthy pregnancies, and diet is a big part of that.

If women know how to meet their nutritional needs before and during pregnancy, they are less likely to experience complications that risk their health and the health of a newborn.

What You can Do to Help

Improved global health is in the interest of everyone because healthy people are less susceptible to contracting and spreading disease.

People only benefit from preventative care. But, this care is not something they can access on their own.

So, you can support PWDI’s mission from anywhere in the world.


Donations are the foundation for the success of our mission. Even a one time contribution can make a difference.

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Money isn’t the only thing you can give. Your time and expertise is also valuable.

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Raise Awareness

Raising awareness on this issue is crucial if we want to solve it. You can help us by sharing this article through social media and following us.

By: Ame Proietti



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