Intended for healthcare professionals


Pregnant women in war zones

BMJ 2016; 353 doi: (Published 20 April 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;353:i2037
  1. A D Akol, research fellow1,
  2. S Caluwaerts, gynaecologist2,
  3. A D Weeks, professor of international maternal health1
  1. 1Department of Women’s and Children’s Health, University of Liverpool, Liverpool L8 7SS, UK
  2. 2MSF Operational Centre, Brussels, Belgium
  1. Correspondence to: A D Weeks aweeks{at}

Forgotten victims, killed by violence and by a lack of available care

Death from violent conflict is a little acknowledged cause of maternal mortality. In times of war, the focus is usually on the male soldiers—yet an estimated 140 000 women die in conflict every year.1 An unknown proportion of these women are pregnant at the time of death, adding to the estimated 303 000 women already expected to die annually in pregnancy and childbirth.2

War aggravates an existing high maternal mortality rate by destroying health services and preventing access to them. Health services may even become targets, as seen in the recent massacre of 11 Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) health workers in Syria3 and the bombing of Kunduz trauma hospital in Afghanistan.4

There is also increasing evidence of violence directed specifically against pregnant women. A British war surgeon, David Nott, witnessed a heavily pregnant woman being targeted …

View Full Text

Log in

Log in through your institution


* For online subscription