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The influence of the social and cultural environment on maternal mortality in Nigeria: Evidence from the 2013 demographic and health survey
Authors: Oluwatosin Ariyo, Ifeoma D. Ozodiegwu, and Henry V. Doctor
Source: PLOS ONE , 12(12): e0190285; DOI:
Topic(s): Maternal mortality
Country: Africa
Published: DEC 2017
Abstract: Introduction Reducing maternal mortality remains a priority for global health. One in five maternal deaths, globally, are from Nigeria. Objective This study aimed to assess the sociocultural correlates of maternal mortality in Nigeria. Methods We conducted a retrospective analysis of nationally representative data from the 2013 Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey. The analysis was based on responses from the core women’s questionnaire. Maternal mortality was categorized as ‘yes’ for any death while pregnant, during delivery or two months after delivery (as reported by the sibling), and ‘no’ for deaths of other or unknown causes. Multilevel logistic regression analysis was conducted to test for association between maternal mortality and predictor variables of sociocultural status (educational attainment, community women’s education, region, type of residence, religion, and women’s empowerment). Results Region, Religion, and the level of community women’s education were independently associated with maternal mortality. Women in the North West were more than twice as likely to report maternal mortality (OR: 2.14; 95% CI: 1.42–3.23) compared to those in the North Central region. Muslim women were 52% more likely to report maternal deaths (OR: 1.52; 95% CI: 1.10–2.11) compared to Christian women. Respondents living in communities where a significant proportion of women have at least secondary schooling were 33% less likely to report that their sisters died of pregnancy-related causes (OR: 0.67; 95% CI: 0.48–0.95). Conclusion Efforts to reduce maternal mortality should implement tailored programs that address barriers to health-seeking behavior influenced by cultural beliefs and attitudes, and low educational attainment. Strategies to improve women’s agency should be at the core of these programs; they are essential for reducing maternal mortality and achieving sustainable development goals towards gender equality. Future studies should develop empirically evaluated measures which assess, and further investigate the association between women’s empowerment and maternal health status and outcomes.