Senior Burnet researchers have outlined a compelling case for greater research, innovation and investment to address global rates of preventable maternal mortality that remain unacceptably high, in an editorial published in PLOS Medicine.
Professor James Beeson (Burnet Deputy Director), Professor Caroline Homer (Co-Program Director, Maternal and Child Health), and Dr Chris Morgan (Head of International Development) focus on the devastating impact of indirect causes of morbidity during pregnancy including infections, non-communicable diseases, and mental health disorders.
“Infectious diseases such as HIV, malaria, tuberculosis and sexually-transmitted infections, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, anaemia, micronutrient deficiencies, hypertension, and mental health challenges present major disease burdens in pregnancy,” the authors said.
“These highly prevalent diseases overlap and co-occur such that many women experience multi-morbidity during and around pregnancy, but this issue is less well recognised and the impacts are not well understood.
“While some interactions have been studied, there is a major knowledge gap for many important co-occurring diseases and risk factors, especially the interaction of nutrient deficiencies with infections and other conditions.”
Addressing the burden of multi-morbidities will require innovation and investment to drive the development of new tools, innovations and strategies, the authors argue.
As well, clinical research should be accompanied by improved surveillance and reporting of multi-morbidities, and a better understanding of the causes of maternal mortality, especially indirect deaths.
The authors also advocate for a wider inclusion of pregnant women in clinical and implementation research to provide crucial knowledge and help integrate maternal health into broader health solutions.
Despite substantial efforts, globally over 300,000 women still die each year during pregnancy, childbirth or in the postpartum period, mostly from preventable causes.
The burden of morbidity and mortality is inequitable with vulnerable and marginalised populations at greatest risk.
Click here to read the editorial entitled ‘Multiple morbidities in pregnancy: time for research, innovation, and action’.