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The reduction of armed conflict in Colombia led to better pregnancy outcomes, study suggests

Posted on 29 July 2021

A new study has linked a July 2015 ceasefire of conflict violence in Colombia with better pregnancy outcomes for women.

UltrasoundResearchers analysed data for more than three million pregnant women in Colombia.

The study, co-authored by Dr Rodrigo Moreno-Serra from University of York’s Centre for Health Economics, included data for more than three million women living across Colombia who were pregnant between 2013 and 2017.

It found that the women were exposed to fewer conflict events on average after the ceasefire began, and this reduction was associated with lower risks of stillbirths and perinatal mortality (when a child dies before or shortly after birth).


In July 2015, a ceasefire was called by the guerrilla group FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia), which was later followed by a final peace agreement between the Colombian government and FARC.

In areas with greater incidence of FARC-related conflict violence, stillbirths decreased by up to 9.53 deaths per 1,000 pregnancies, and perinatal mortality decreased by up to 10.69 deaths per 1,000 pregnancies. 

These findings are in line with other evidence that shows the benefits of reduced exposure to violence during pregnancy, and suggest that the peace process in Colombia is contributing to better population health. 

Policy implications

Dr Moreno-Serra said: "The results in our paper uncover some tragic consequences of armed conflicts for population health. We find that, beyond the loss of life amid armed conflicts, exposure to conflict violence is also linked to worse pregnancy outcomes”. 

Dr Moreno-Serra added that the negative consequences in terms of stillborn or prematurely dead infants have previously been an ‘invisible’ health issue associated with protracted conflicts. They also say their study has important implications for policy. 

“First, it suggests that the de-escalation of violence brought about by the ongoing Colombian peace process has been contributing to better health, and therefore that the peace process in the country should be protected and strengthened. Secondly, it indicates the importance of developing focused health policies that protect pregnant women in contexts of protracted violence.


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About this research

‘Conflict violence reduction and pregnancy outcomes: A regression discontinuity design in Colombia’ is published in PLOS Medicine.

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