Review article| Volume 46, 102982, May 2021

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Why are women still dying from obstetric hemorrhage? A narrative review of perspectives from high and low resource settings

Published:March 24, 2021DOI:


      • Hemorrhage is the leading contributor to maternal mortality worldwide.
      • High and low resource settings have different problems and solutions to hemorrhage.
      • Maternal mortality is decreasing in low resource settings as hospital births increase.
      • Maternal mortality is now increasing in some high resource settings.


      The possibility of hemorrhage will always co-exist with pregnancy, whether anticipated or not. It remains the unwelcome guest in the corner of every delivery room, stealing the lives of young women every day across the globe. In 2014, the World Health Organization reported that hemorrhage was the leading contributor to maternal mortality worldwide, with nearly 75% of maternal deaths due to postpartum hemorrhage. In low resource settings, while maternal mortality is decreasing, hemorrhage remains the single most important contributor to maternal death. Hospital-based deliveries with skilled birth attendants have been encouraged to improve outcomes and, as a result, hospital births have dramatically increased. However, access to higher levels of emergency obstetric care as well as blood products and therapeutic resources remain limiting factors. Meanwhile, in high resource settings, maternal mortality from hemorrhage is increasing, particularly among women of color. While very rare, mortality from hemorrhage generally follows medical interventions such as surgical management of placenta accreta or emergency cesarean section. Primary prevention therefore requires careful selection and conduct of medical interventions, as well as the provision of high quality, supportive, and safe maternity care. It is clear that there is not one single solution in preventing obstetric hemorrhage on a global scale. The international community must employ creative solutions to reduce this ever-present problem.


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