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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Deaths in childbirth plunge

Mothers wait in line with their young children outside Phnom Penh’s Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospital last month seeking medical services.
Mothers wait in line with their young children outside Phnom Penh’s Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospital last month seeking medical services. Pha Lina

Deaths in childbirth plunge

The number of mothers who died in labour has nearly halved over the past four years, down from 182 fatalities in 2011 to 100 this year, the Ministry of Health’s research commission into maternal mortality revealed yesterday.

The dramatically reduced death rate was largely due to improvements in the circumstance in which women were giving birth, particularly the fact that more deliveries are being carried out by trained midwives, according to the chief of the research commission, Tan Voch Chheng.

“We are seeing a rise in the number of pregnant women who use skilled birth attendants rather than traditional birth attendants,” she said. “And most of them are choosing a health facility for giving birth, not home.”

The proportion of mothers having a baby with help from a trained midwife instead of a traditional birth attendant leapt from just 57 per cent of all births in 2013, to 73 per cent this year, according to the report.

The proportion of women going to hospital to give birth, as opposed to staying at home, increased by 9 per cent over the same period.

Most maternal deaths happened outside Phnom Penh, with Kampong Cham province accounting for 10 cases, the highest number, followed by Battambang province at nine, and Kampot, Takeo, and Kampong Thom provinces with six deaths each.

However, Taing Chheng, deputy chief of the Kampot province health department, said women in his area were increasingly making informed choices.

“Women now have knowledge about pregnancy health, and they know that there are risks and many potential difficulties during pregnancy and giving birth,” he said.

The NGO Reproductive Child Health Alliance (RACHA) welcomed the positive figures, but urged the government to do more to reduce reliance on traditional birth attendants.

“The trend is very good news, and we expect the number of women giving birth at health facilities, rather than at home, to increase further,” said RACHA director Chan Theary.

“But the Ministry of Health needs to do more to educate traditional birth attendants on the need to always have skilled midwives present at a birth in case of complications or emergencies.”

Theary also said procedures around recording births needed to be improved.

“In some cases, births are not recorded at all, both by trained midwives and by traditional birth attendants,” she said.

“And that means health facilities can’t offer follow-up care visits and can’t plan for the care needed by families.”

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