Bleeding, poor healthcare top killers of women in hospitals - report

Pregnant mother wait to be admitted at Pumwani maternity hospital on September 12, 2015/file
Pregnant mother wait to be admitted at Pumwani maternity hospital on September 12, 2015/file

Heavy bleeding is the leading cause of death among Kenyan women during pregnancy, labour, or after giving birth, a new government report says.

The report, which followed an investigation by the Ministry of Health, blames most of these deaths on poor services in health facilities.

The substandard care involves delays in starting treatment, being attended to by unqualified staff, and poor monitoring.

This is the first time the government has probed the actual causes of maternal deaths in Kenya.


The ministry released the findings Wednesday morning in a report titled 'Saving Mothers Lives: Confidential Enquiry into Maternal Deaths in Kenya.'

It was compiled by officials who visited health facilities across the country and studied medical records of women who were killed by pregnancy-related complications.

The report says 51.1 per cent of these women died of obstetric haemorrhage (bleeding), while 19.7 per cent succumbed to hypertensive disorders associated with pregnancy and 12.5 per cent to pregnancy-related infections.

"The majority 91 per cent of women who died of obstetric haemorrhage received sub-optimal care, where different management would have resulted in a different outcome," the report says.

Other women died from conditions unrelated to the pregnancy but which may have developed or worsened within the nine months.

In this category, 22.9 per cent of women succumbed to HIV-related complications.

Anaemia caused 14.6 per cent of such deaths, protozoal diseases like malaria 10.4 per cent and diseases of the circulatory system 10.4 per cent.

Dr Mohamed Sheikh, head of the division of family health said the report was compiled in 2016 and 2017 using data for 2014.

"Some of the recommendations from this report have already been implemented,” he told journalists. “In this report, we don't want to blame anyone we just want to know the causes of deaths. It will help us to reshape our policies and guidelines as our government."

Currently, about 4000 Kenyan women die from pregnancy-related complications every year. in 2014, the number was about 6,000.

Most maternal deaths (73.3 per cent) occur at night when most staff are away, or on weekends and public holidays.

Only 26.7 per cent of the women die during weekday normal working hours.

Dr Joel Gondi, the head of reproductive and maternal health services, said the report will help the ministry reduce facility-based deaths by more than 50 per cent within five years.

He noted the country faces a major shortage of gynaecologists and obstetricians.

"Many of the counties with high maternal deaths have advertised but no one has applied," he said.

The report notes where obstetricians were

involved in the emergency care only one in 10 women died.

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