Labor & Loss: Maternal Mortality Crisis in Mexico

Mexico faces a severe maternal mortality crisis with over 5,099 women dead due to obstetric care issues from 2016-2021, spotlighting grave social and healthcare inadequacies. The alarming rate of maternal deaths underscores the urgent need for comprehensive healthcare reforms.

Labor & Loss: Maternal Mortality Crisis in Mexico
Healthcare professionals in Mexico striving to combat obstetric violence and ensure humanized childbirth. Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Between 2016 and 2021, Mexico witnessed the tragic loss of approximately 5,099 women due to complications and inadequate care related to childbirth, as per a report from the National Institute of Statistics and Geography and the Information Group on Chosen Reproduction. This shocking figure averages to about 850 deaths annually, or approximately two deaths per day. Juan Carlos Pérez López, an esteemed academic at the Facultad de Estudios Superiores (FES) Zaragoza, UNAM, highlighted the magnitude of this maternal mortality crisis in a revealing interview.

According to Pérez López, these daunting figures underscore a severe healthcare problem and reflect one of the gravest social scenarios. The death of a mother often leads to the dismantlement of the family nucleus, impairing the developmental conditions for the children and the surviving spouse. The resultant strains frequently precipitate school abandonment, premature entry into the workforce, and family dissolution, serving as stark indicators of the country’s faltering social progress.

This grave situation is particularly prevalent among women from indigenous communities and areas like Chiapas, Oaxaca, and Guerrero, highlighting the egregious inequality and limited access to qualified healthcare personnel and facilities in these regions.

Pérez López accentuated the appalling phenomenon of obstetric violence—defined as dehumanizing treatment experienced during obstetric care. This form of violence manifests in disrespectful care, forced medical decisions, violation of reproductive rights, and, in some instances, non-consensual placement of contraceptive devices and sterilization.

The contrasting paradigm to this is humanized childbirth, which promotes dignified, respectful, and supportive birthing environments and practices, protecting both mother and child from unnecessary and non-consensual medical interventions.

Sustainable Development and Healthcare Strategies

Addressing maternal mortality and obstetric violence is crucial in aligning with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These issues are interconnected with overarching health strategies and policies intended to ensure healthy childbirth and adequate women care during the reproductive process. They serve as development indicators, reflecting the nation’s performance in terms of inequality and healthcare access.

Pérez López, also a Master of Science, indicated that achieving a reduction in cesarean sections was a pivotal target, with the initial aim of reducing it to 15 percent per 100,000 live births. While a reduction was noted, the rate still hovers between 20 and 22 percent, exacerbated by disruptions due to the COVID-19 health emergency.

The excessive reliance on cesarean sections, mostly in private health institutions, tends to hamper the immediate attachment between mother and child. It also necessitates extended recovery periods, heightening the risk of infections and complications, thus impacting the possibilities of future pregnancies.

The maternal mortality crisis in Mexico paints a distressing picture of the country’s healthcare system, emphasizing the urgent need for comprehensive reforms. The pervasive obstetric violence and the unmet targets for reducing cesarean sections underscore the critical need for bolstering healthcare policies, amplifying women’s rights, and fostering environments that support natural childbirth. Achieving these reforms is not only crucial for addressing the ongoing crises, but also pivotal for reinforcing the family structure and fostering social progress in the nation.