In 1990, more than half a million women died of complications during pregnancy or during the first six weeks after giving birth. In 2015, that number was down to 303,000. The 44% drop in maternal mortality rates globally undeniably shows that tremendous strides in maternal health have been made over the past quarter century in certain countries. But 303,000 is still a dauntingly large number, especially considering that many of these deaths are preventable through proper care during the prenatal and postnatal periods and during labor and delivery. Much of the progress has also remained limited to specific areas of the world: 99% of maternal deaths occur in developing countries, and 2 out of 3 occur in sub-Saharan Africa. On another note, disturbing at best, women in the U.S. are twice as likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth related issues as women in Canada, and The United States was ranked among only 13 countries wherein the maternal mortality rate worsened between 1990 and 2015. Nine UN countries reached their target goals for maternal mortality rates, while 39 countries reported “significant progress” toward their goals, with eastern Asia seeing the greatest improvement. Eastern Asian countries witnessed their maternal mortality levels drop from 95 to 27 deaths per 100,000 live births. The UN’s new goal for 2030 is set at 70 deaths per 100,000 live births, but health officials warn that the countries that currently have high maternal mortality rates will need additional midwives and health workers in order to achieve this goal or even sustain current rates. The struggle to improve maternal health is far from over, and the developing countries that need to make the largest improvements are typically the ones with the fewest resources.

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