Pregnancy-related infections are one of the leading causes of maternal death worldwide; largely affecting low-and-middle income countries.

In a study published in the journal PLOS Medicine, researchers are highlighting four infections that are treatable and preventable, but can be life threatening to unborn and newborn babies.

Lead study author Michael Gravett alongside a team of investigators from the University of Washington in Seattle Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH) and (Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Stillbirth, Seattle Children (GAPPS), reviewed studies regarding maternal infections particularly in countries such as Africa and Asia. Data assessed revealed Africa and Asia accounts for 80 percent of maternal deaths that occur. They also found out of pregnancy-related infections, the most fatal ones are genital tract, urinary tract, soft tissues, and infections related to abortion.

The analysis displays a significant disparity between the knowledge in detecting and preventing these infections in low-and-middle income countries. With early screening and follow-up antibiotics all infections reported can be treated.

The authors urge for intervention targeted at each infection.

Researchers believe there is a great need for more in depth studies in low-and-middle income countries to explore risk factors. It is important for studies to include information regarding infections at the community and household level, according to researchers.

Researchers recommend women be screened for asymptomatic bacteriuria (ASB) and sexually transmitted infections at the time of their first gynecological visit to prevent urinary tract infections and reduce septic abortion.

Screening and treatment of ASB by urinalysis at first prenatal contact can substantially reduce the risk of urinary tract infections and is recommended for all pregnant women. Screening for gonorrhea and chlamydia at a woman's first prenatal visit or before an abortion has been demonstrated to reduce post-abortion infections in developed countries.

"Without such data, women will continue to be treated inappropriately and experience potentially preventable mortality and morbidity," researchers concluded.