9 Major Pregnancy Complications Facing Women In Africa

9 Major Pregnancy Complications Facing Women In Africa

Africa has a high maternal mortality rate due to several pregnancy complications. How do we tackle them in the bid to reduce the mortality rate? Read more..

About 830 women die daily from avoidable childbirth and pregnancy complications. Half of these women live in sub-Saharan Africa. 99% of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries. Maternal mortality is higher in women living in rural areas and among poorer communities. Young adolescents face a higher risk of complications and death as a result of pregnancy than other women. Researchers say these women are not dying as a result of any illness. But rather from a lack of basic healthcare measures.

Pregnancy complications are health problems that occur during pregnancy. They usually involve the mother's health, the baby's health, or both. Before they become pregnant, some women have health problems that could lead to complications in their pregnancy. Other problems arise during the pregnancy. Whether a complication is common or rare, there are ways to manage problems that come up during pregnancy.

Some Of The Pregnancy Complications That Face African Women

9 Major Pregnancy Complications Facing Women In Africa


In a study conducted in cities and towns in six countries, 3-9 women of every 100 giving birth developed a severe complication that was directly related to the pregnancy. Roughly one-third of those with sepsis or uterine rupture, and about one-fifth of those with eclampsia, died.

The study examined the incidence of pregnancy-related morbidity in the capital cities of Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, and in two small towns and a major city in Senegal. In all, 20,326 women participated. On average, they were 27 weeks pregnant and 26 years old when they enrolled. The complications reported by 36 weeks gestation include:

Severe bleeding, also called haemorrhaging

This could be a result of placental abruption, a situation where the  placenta separates from the uterine wall before delivery. It can also mean the fetus doesn't get enough oxygen. There are other reasons for haemorrhaging after delivery.

Infections (usually after childbirth)

This mostly includes urinary tract infections that risk affecting the liver and causing a miscarriage. After delivery, the woman could be infected with Group B strep; Hepatitis or bacterial vaginosis. The symptoms include: fishy smelly discharge, burning urination, nausea, etc.

High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy (Pre-Eclampsia and Eclampsia)

Also known as toxemia, it occurs in a pregnant woman after her 20th week of pregnancy. It then results in high blood pressure and problems with the kidneys and other organs. Symptoms include sudden increase in blood pressure, too much protein in the urine, swelling in a woman's face and hands, and headache.

Gestational diabetes

Too high blood sugar levels during pregnancy. Usually, there are no symptoms. Sometimes, the woman will experience extreme thirst, hunger, or fatigue. A screening test will reveal the high sugar levels.

Ectopic pregnancy

This is when a fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus, usually in the fallopian tube. Symptoms are: abdominal pain, shoulder pain, vaginal bleeding and dizziness.


When the pregnant woman has a lower than normal number of healthy red blood cells. Some symptoms are weakness, pale skin, dizziness and shortness of breath.

Unsafe Abortion

In Africa several women try to abort their pregnancies through unsafe means, some of which are unconventional. The result is a problem or several health problems that may even lead to loss of life.

Preterm Labour

Some women go into labour before 37 weeks of pregnancy for a number of reasons including leaking amniotic fluid, and stress. Increased vaginal discharge; pelvic pressure and cramping; back pain radiating to the abdomen and contractions are some symptoms.

Underage Pregnancies

Africans engage in teen marriages for several reasons related to culture and tradition. As a result, the continent has the highest number of teenage mothers and teenage pregnancies in the world. Many pregnancy complications are because the woman is too young.

The remainder are caused by or associated with diseases such as malaria, and AIDS during pregnancy.

Factors That Aid Pregnancy Complications And Maternal Mortality In Africa

9 Major Pregnancy Complications Facing Women In Africa


  1. Poverty
  2. Distance from quality healthcare
  3. Lack of information
  4. Inadequate services
  5. Cultural practices.

To improve maternal health, barriers that limit access to quality maternal health services must be identified and addressed at all levels of the health system.

Improving Maternal Health In Africa

9 Major Pregnancy Complications Facing Women In Africa

Most pregnancy complications are preventable. The health-care solutions for managing pregnancy complications are well known. All women need access to antenatal care in pregnancy. They also need skilled care during childbirth, and care and support in the weeks after childbirth.

It is particularly important that all births are attended by skilled health professionals, as timely management and treatment can make the difference between life and death for both the mother and the baby.

To avoid maternal deaths, it is also vital to prevent unwanted and too-early pregnancies. All women, including adolescents, need access to contraception. There should also be safe abortion services to the full extent of the law, and quality post-abortion care.

Resource: World Health Organization

Also read: Causes of teenage pregnancy: how to keep teenage girls from the maternity ward


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