The Philippines Is Facing an Epidemic of Maternal Deaths These Days

Around six to seven Filipino women are dying daily.

The lack of access to adequate resources plagues mothers worldwide. We've seen women across continents fail to get the necessary support for their pregnancies and births. Whether it be reproductive health medical care or post-natal care, services for mothers have led to a sharp increase in maternal mortality rates by the dozen. In the Philippines, the situation seems to be much more troubling.

Data from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Philippines suggests that there has been a noticeable increase in maternal deaths. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, 1,458 women died of maternal causes back in 2019. By 2021, that figure was 2,478. This means that roughly six to seven Filipino women die daily because of childbirth.

"Women die because sexual and reproductive health services are unavailable, inaccessible, unaffordable or of poor quality. Human resources are also scarce," Dr. Leila Saiji Joudane, Country Representative of the UNFPA said in a statement. "There are not enough trained healthcare workers that provide quality sexual and reproductive health information and services."

Among the top five reasons behind the rise of maternal deaths in the Philippines include complications in pregnancy, childbirth and puerperium, eclampsia, pre-eclampsia, and hemorrhage.

The high cost of healthcare combined with general accessibility to medical aid for most Filipinos are the main culprits for such. A National Health Expenditure Survey from 2021 also shows that Filipinos in rural areas pay more for healthcare services and medicines compared to those living in urban areas and those with better incomes.


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The Maternal Mortality Rate in the Philippines was 189.21 per 100,000 live births in 2021. Meanwhile, the highest reported number of maternal deaths was in 1952, when the country recorded 2,511, based on figures from the Department of Health. 

Photo by Shutterstock.

What's more harrowing is the fact that 14 percent of pregnant women in the Philippines do not have regular check-ups or even receive appropriate medical care during their pregnancies. One in 10 women here has been found to be giving birth in areas or situations outside healthcare facilities. They also struggle to find assistance from skilled healthcare professionals during their delivery.

The top 5 causes of maternal deaths included complications in pregnancy, childbirth and puerperium, eclampsia, pre-eclampsia, and hemorrhage. "Many of these deaths are preventable if only there were accessible proper medical interventions and adequate health-care systems that are also resilient to emergencies," the UNFPA representative added.

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"Of course, this is easier said than done," she further noted. "But gender inequality’s role at the root of so many other issues, including those mentioned above, must be recognized. Gender inequality is what keeps women out of the workforce and schools, vulnerable to conflict and violence, and denies them the right to make decisions about their own bodies and health."

As the sexual and reproductive health agency of the United Nations, the UNFPA supports the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Philippines’ commitment to achieving universal health coverage and universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reducing to zero preventable maternal death.

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