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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - New push for maternal health

An ultrasound is performed on a woman at a clinic in Phnom Penh
An ultrasound is performed on a woman at a clinic in Phnom Penh. The government is encouraging people to seek out professional midwives for childbirth in an effort to decrease mortality rates at birth. Charlotte Pert

New push for maternal health

The government on Saturday announced a plan to decrease the number of maternal deaths in the Kingdom by 50 per cent in the future by promoting countrywide pregnancy-related preventative measures among women.

First Lady Bun Rany, who heads the Cambodian Red Cross and is in charge of the UN secretary general’s Action Plan for Women’s and Children’s Health, publicised the goal in an open letter to pregnant mothers on Saturday.

According to the letter, the aim of decreasing maternal deaths could be achieved in the near future if pregnant women received proper sexual health education, underwent proper blood testing to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission and delivered their children with the help of expert midwifery.

“If all pregnant women obey and deliver their babies with expert midwives, then Cambodia will decrease the number of maternal deaths by 50 per cent,” Bun Rany wrote.

In the recently released preliminary results of the 2014 Cambodia Demographic and Health Survey (CDHS), pregnancy-related deaths were recorded to have declined from 2.06 per 1,000 live births in 2010 to 1.70 in 2014.

The major reason for this decrease, according to CDHS project manager and ICF International senior health specialist Dr Rathavuth Hong, is the significant improvement of national health services available to mothers.

“There’s been an increase in both prenatal and antenatal care, which are pregnancy checkups before delivery, and there has also been an increase in postnatal checkups and the percentage of women who deliver through trained health providers,” Hong said.

In the study, the number of pregnant women who had health professionals deliver their babies rose substantially, from 71 per cent in the 2010 CDHS to 89 per cent in the 2014 preliminary CDHS, while the proportion of babies delivered at a health facility surged from 54 per cent in 2010 to 83 per cent in 2014.

Proper medical attention and hygienic conditions have led to a reduction in complications and infections that can either cause death or serious illness to mothers, babies or both, Hong said.

But while Cambodia has made significant strides in improving maternal health, Rany said that more work has to be done to further decrease pregnancy-related deaths.

To reach the milestone, Rany wrote in her appeal that women should practice better family planning, quit smoking, stop drinking alcohol and refrain from ingesting medicine without proper doctor’s prescriptions. The drop in maternal deaths “is our pride, but we still have some more work to continue”, she said.

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