More Women Surviving Pregnancy and Childbirth than 20 Years Ago

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Improving the training of midwives, strengthening hospitals and health centers and increasing access to family planning and prenatal care has increased the survival of pregnant and birthing women all over the world, according to a joint report issued by UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the World Bank and the United Nations Population Fund.

Africa and Asia Among Those Improving in Maternal Care

The data in the report called “Trends in Maternal Mortality” includes figures gathered between 1990 and 2008. The number of women dying in pregnancy and childbirth has decreased by 34%, from 546,000 to 358,000 over the 20-year span.

But is it good enough? The report notes that, while the progress is encouraging news, the rate of decline is still less than half of what is needed to achieve the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 5A of a 75% reduction by 2015 states WHO Director-General Margaret Chan.

Read: Amnesty International Reports High U.S. Maternal Death Rate "Scandalous"

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Women in developing countries are 36 times more likely to have a fatal pregnancy-related complication. The four major causes of death are severe bleeding after childbirth, infections, hypertensive disorders, and unsafe abortion. In 2008 alone, 1000 women died from one of these reasons, with more than half of those deaths occurring in sub-Saharan Africa and a third in South Asia.

Read: US Not Best Place to Be a Mom According to Charity Study

However, those countries were also among those with the greatest progress. Maternal mortality has dropped by 26% in sub-Saharan Africa and 52% in Asia.

"To achieve our global goal of improving maternal health and to save women's lives, we need to do more to reach those who are most at risk," said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. "That means reaching women in rural areas and poorer households, women from ethnic minorities and indigenous groups, and women living with HIV and in conflict zones."

The authors suggest that countries should invest more in their health systems and in quality of care.

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