Every year an estimated half a million women die in childbirth - mainly from haemorrhage, infection and unsafe abortion.
Infection alone is the second most common killer of women in Asia and Africa accounting for up to 15% of maternal deaths.
Now a leading American funding body has awarded Aberdeen researchers $500,000 (around £302,000) to launch two new projects to help tackle the situation.
One of the projects supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation will fund research on a new infection control intervention package for childbirth which is being launched in India.
Initially involving two hospitals in Gujarat state, the package will introduce new measures to improve the motivation of health workers, and also implement new surveillance systems for infection control, infection control committees and standardised infection prevention guidelines.
It is hoped the schemes - which will begin at the hospitals this year - could also be rolled out in rural and poor urban areas of Nigeria and Mexico.
The second project funded by the MacArthur Foundation aims to share maternal and neonatal expertise in developing countries via the launch of three new initiatives - a helpline, a peer reviewed scientific journal and a ‘virtual’ community network of researchers.
Working closely with partners in Argentina, Burkina Faso and India, the helpline will assist health managers and workers in Asia, Africa and Latin America who may not have the resources, time or capacity to access and digest information from scientific literature, global publications or the internet.
The new journal will help spread findings gathered from maternal and neonatal mortality reduction programmes already in operation. Currently valuable data gathered from such programmes is not being disseminated because this kind of work is often not accepted for publication in existing scientific journals.
The virtual community will bring together - electronically - researchers and practitioners working in maternal and neonatal health.
Principal investigator for the projects is Dr Julia Hussein from the University of Aberdeen’s Immpact - global research initiative whose aim is to promote better health for mothers to be in developing countries.
Dr Hussein, a Senior Clinical Research Fellow for Immpact, said: “The University of Aberdeen’s Immpact research initiative is delighted to be leading these two projects. The helpline and journal is a means of sharing know-how between practitioners and researchers, so that better solutions can be found to tackle the needless deaths of pregnant women.
“Not enough is being done to prevent and treat infections after childbirth in many countries. We know that 5.2 million new cases of maternal sepsis occur annually and 62,000 of these women will die.
“This is happening despite the fact that puerperal fever or childbed fever was known to be spread by unclean practices at childbirth over 200 years ago – a discovery made right here in Aberdeen, by the physician Alexander Gordon.”