Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed 1,975 women died due to maternal causes in 2020, up from 1,458 in 2019.
Zenaida Recidoro, an official of the Department of Health adolescent and maternal health division, said in a recent online briefing that pregnant women faced many challenges due to the pandemic, with quarantine restrictions affecting the delivery and utilization of maternal care services in 2020 and 2021.
“You couldn’t go out and there was no public transport, so that made a great impact on the utilization of services,” Recidoro said.
“There were many questions (to the DOH) about how they would get to a health facility for prenatal care. And these were coming from women even from the provinces,” she added. She also reported a decrease in facility-based birthing or those who give birth in hospitals and primary care centers such as birthing homes, rural health units and lying in clinincs.
Pregnancy complications and maternal deaths are usually due to birthing outside health centers. The World Health Organization defines maternal death as “the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of the termination of pregnancy… from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management, but not from accidental or incidental causes.”
For this year, the government aims to reduce the maternal mortality ratio to 90 per 100,000 live births, and by 2030, to around 70 per 100,000. To achieve these goals in maternal health care, every pregnant woman should have at least four prenatal checkups, two postnatal checkups, and give birth and be attended to by a health professional in a facility, Recidoro said.
The quality and reach of maternal health care in the country that was negatively affected by limitations imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic should now be able to improve now, especially as we finally face the prospect of life returning to a semblance of normalcy. May the lessons we learned throughout the pandemic, along with the goals that have been set, guide our health officials and workers as they strive to make maternity as safe as possible for Filipino women, the children they bear, and the families that cannot afford to lose their matriarchs to poor or unavailable health care services.*