Prenatal Care in Developing Countries

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SEATTLE, Washington — Global maternal mortality rates have plummeted due to the development of better prenatal and antenatal medical practices. However, this has been largely relegated to developed countries. The global south accounts for 99 percent of the 300,000 maternal deaths due to pregnancy. Here is more information about prenatal care in developing countries.

Prenatal Care in Developing Countries

Prenatal care reduces the risk of preventable pregnancy complications. This often includes monitoring both the baby’s and mother’s health and making recommendations that reduce the risk of miscarriage and birth defects. In 2018, there were 5.3 million deaths of children under the age of 5. Approximately 47 percent of these deaths were newborns. Those in developing countries who survive childbirth are often relegated to poverty due to a lack of prenatal care.

A lack of prenatal care has a multiplicity of long term deleterious effects on children. Low birth weight babies are at a higher risk of dying and are also “more likely to be neglected by their caregivers.” Due to a lack of prenatal care, the number of children who are born low weight in developing countries is more than twice the number of children who are born low weight in developed nations.

Child Malnutrition

Child malnutrition is rampant in developing countries. Among the 815 million individuals who are malnourished in the world, the majority of them live in a developing nation. If a woman does not have access to prenatal care, she is more likely to become malnourished, which has devastating effects on the long term health of the baby. The lack of proper nutrients during pregnancy can lead to low weight births and slow or delayed organ growth.

Maternal malnutrition during pregnancy can lead to a lack of glucose and insulin, causing type 2 diabetes and a lack of spinal growth. Long term health effects include neural tube defects leading to spina bifida, brain damage, birth defects and premature birth. Intrauterine growth restriction is responsible for 50 percent of stillbirths. Perinatal mortality is five to 30 times more likely for low weight birth children. Both of these factors are direct results of maternal malnutrition.

Women who lack prenatal care are more likely to have babies who will suffer from malnutrition in their childhood. Globally, 13.8 percent of women do not receive any prenatal care. Almost all of these women live in developing countries. The World Health Organization’s most recent estimated that at least 35 percent of women do not receive sufficient prenatal care in developing countries. It may not be surprising that 50.5 million children are wasting and 150 million children are stunted due to malnutrition.

Prenatal Care and Education

Prenatal care also has a significant effect on the development of a child’s brain. A comparative study of women in developing nations who had sufficient prenatal care and women who had little to no prenatal care found that there was a significant correlation between sufficient prenatal care and school grades. While grades in school do not have the same correlation to higher education in the developing world, they do reflect the students’ behavior, employment, social progress and continuation into secondary education.

Success in secondary education has a strong relationship to good wages, employment and social mobility in developing nations. Good grades also have a relationship with stability and general well-being. As such, prenatal care is a cornerstone in avoiding childhood and long term poverty in developing nations.

The quality and quantity of prenatal care has dramatically improved in the past decade in developed nations but remains low in developing nations. Prenatal care is a crucial element in ensuring a child’s general well-being. Improvement in prenatal care in developing nations would not only decrease poverty but would also decrease malnutrition, increase the general health of babies and ensure long term health for children in developing nations.

Prenatal care has a strong relationship with some of the most important aspects of poverty reduction. It affects education, health, birth defects and more. It is vital that international aid organizations focus on prenatal care in order to decrease maternal and childhood mortality rates and decrease poverty in developing nations.

Denise Sprimont
Photo: Flickr

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