To avoid maternal deaths, it is vital to prevent unwanted and too-early pregnancies. All women, including adolescents, need access to contraception, safe abortion services to the full extent of the law, and quality post-abortion care.
- Every day, approximately 800 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.
- 99% of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries.
- Maternal mortality is higher in women living in rural areas and among poorer communities.
- Young adolescents face a higher risk of complications and death as a result of pregnancy than older women.
- Skilled care before, during and after childbirth can save the lives of women and newborn babies.
- Between 1990 and 2013, maternal mortality worldwide dropped by almost 50%.
Maternal mortality is unacceptably high and remains a top global health priority. According to the World Health Organization, about 800 women die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related complications around the world every day. In 2013, 289,000 women died during and following pregnancy and childbirth. Almost all of these deaths occurred in low-resource settings, and most could have been prevented. Reduction of maternal mortality has long been a global health priority and is a target in the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG) framework and a key concern of the Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health launched by the UN Secretary-General in September, 2010. To reach the target of the fifth MDG, a 75% decrease in maternal mortality ratio (the number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births) between 1990 and 2015 is needed. Some progress towards this target has been reported, especially in the past decade, but further improvements are needed.
Women in developing countries have on average many more pregnancies than women in developed countries, and their lifetime risk of death due to pregnancy is higher. A woman’s lifetime risk of maternal death – the probability that a 15 year old woman will eventually die from a maternal cause – is 1 in 3700 in developed countries, versus 1 in 160 in developing countries.
Why do women die?
Women die as a result of complications during and following pregnancy and childbirth. Most of these complications develop during pregnancy. Other complications may exist before pregnancy but are worsened during pregnancy. The major complications that account for nearly 75% of all maternal deaths are:
- severe bleeding (mostly bleeding after childbirth)
- infections (usually after childbirth)
- high blood pressure during pregnancy (pre-eclampsia and eclampsia)
- complications from delivery
- unsafe abortion.
Taken from WHO factsheet