SDG target: Reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births.
Indirectly, COVID will cause more women than men to suffer and die, in large part because the pandemic has disrupted health care before, during, and immediately after childbirth. Preventable, treatable complications such as severe bleeding, infection, and high blood pressure cause the vast majority of maternal deaths. Many health care workers who used to manage these emergencies, including experienced nurse-midwives, are being diverted to COVID wards.
Meanwhile, pregnant women and new mothers must weigh the benefits of visiting a clinic—where they may not have received high-quality care in the past—against the risk of exposure to COVID. Some are deciding to deliver at home or skip newborn care visits as a result.
Expert maternal care is the definition of an essential service. Unlike some other services, it can’t be safely postponed and caught up later. A pregnant woman is pregnant now and delivers her baby when she delivers. It is imperative that health systems have all the resources they need to ensure that she can do so safely and with dignity.