MANILA - The Department of Health urges pregnant women to seek pre-natal and post-natal care and to have a safe delivery at a health facility as the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 brought a "sharp increase in maternal mortality," an official said Friday.
An average of 5 pregnant women died daily in 2020 in the Philippines due to maternal causes, according to Dr. Zenaida Recidoro of the DOH adolescent and maternal health division.
In 2020, the maternal mortality rate increased to 126 from 87 per 100,000 live births, Recidoro said, citing latest data available from the Philippine Statistics Authority.
The figure translates to a total of 1,975 deaths due to maternal causes out of 1,528,684 live births in 2020, and 1,458 deaths out of 1,673,923 live births in 2019.
"Talagang ang (There was really a) sharp ng increase in maternal mortality. This could be explained by the fact that there were women who were not able to reach the hospitals for special care," she told reporters.
"Admittedly yung health system was not able to respond efficiently to the pregnant women."
There were, however, more women who sought facility-based delivery versus the previous decades, according to Recidoro.
"There were in fact more women giving birth in health facilities, however these are non-hospital facilities. The bulk of delivery during pandemic was in primary care facilities," she said.
The DOH had issued a memorandum on March 15, 2020 notifying all Centers for Health Development to continue all primary care services, Recidoro said.
"Yung biggest impact is we were put in a very strict quarantine at that time. that made a very great impact on utilization of services. Some LGUs (local government units) were very creative at naglaunch sila ng (they launched) mobile health services," she said.
In 2022, the DOH aims to lower maternal mortality ratio to 90 per 100,000 live births by increasing antenatal or pre-natal care coverage, facility-based delivery, post-natal care coverage, and reducing unmet needs for family planning, Recidoro said.
"Ang panawagan lang namin is tulungan niyo pa kami mag-advocate for facility-based delivery. Kasi ito lang ang assurance that every pregnant woman is assisted by a skilled health professional," she said.
(Our appeal is help us advocate for facility-based delivery. Because this is the only assurance that every pregnant woman is assisted by a skilled health professional.)
The DOH and state-insurer PhilHealth monitors lying-in clinics or birthing centers, Recidoro said.
"'Yung di sumusunod may kasamang kaunting punishment din yan. Pwedeng matanggalan ng lisensya o kaya ma-suspend," she said.
(Those that do not comply face some punishment. Their license to operate can be removed or they could be suspended.)
PhilHealth has the following packages for pregnant women and newborns and family planning options:
- normal delivery maternity benefit package - P6500-P8000
- caesarian section – P19000
- complicated vaginal delivery - P9700
- newborn care package – P2950
- bilateral tubal ligation – P4000
- IUD insertion - P2000
Pregnant women who contract COVID-19 can file a separate claim for coronavirus packages, said PhilHealth vice president Shirley Domingo.
Earlier this year, the Philippine Society of Maternal and Fetal Medicine said more pregnant women were testing positive for COVID-19, majority of whom were asymptomatic.