Volume 24, Issue 4 p. 251-261
Special article

The impact of early medical technology on maternal mortality in late 19th century Sweden

U. Högberg

U. Högberg

Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden

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S. Wall

S. Wall

Department of Social Medicine, University Hospital of Umeå, Umeå, Sweden

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G. Broström

G. Broström

Department of Mathematical Statistics, Umeå University, Umeå Sweden

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First published: August 1986
Citations: 38
Address for reprints: U. Högberg M.D. Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology Umeå University Hospital S-901 85 Umeå, Sweden

Abstract

The prevention of fatal complications of childbirth is a priority of health care in the developing countries. This historical study of maternal deaths in Sweden analyses the decline in mortality between 1751–1900 and during this years maternal mortality was reduced by 76% whereas the female mortality dropped only by 33% The decline was especially pronounced during the period 1861–1900, when maternal mortality declined from 567 to 227 per 100,000 live births. The potential impact of medical technology was analysed by epidemiological methods for the period 1861–1900. The introduction of antiseptic technique was estimated to reduce septic maternal mortality 25-fold in lying-in hospitals and 2.7-fold in rural home deliveries, implying that 49% of the septic maternal deaths were thus “prevented”. In addition, licensed midwives assisting at home deliveries were estimated to reduce non-septic mortality 5-fold, thus “preventing” 46% of the non-septic maternal deaths. This could be one explanation why Sweden had a lower maternal mortality than the U.S. and the U.K. in the beginning of the 20th century.