Also known as "maternal death" or "obstetric death," maternal mortality refers to any death of a woman occurring during or, at most, 42 days after her pregnancy.
Over 536,000 women die during pregnancy or childbirth every year. That translates to about one death each minute.
For every woman who dies, another 30 suffer long-lasting illness or injury.
99% of maternal deaths occur in developing nations, particularly in Africa and South Asia.
More than 1 million children are left motherless every year due to maternal deaths.
Children are 3 to 10 times more likely to die within two years of a maternal death.
Globally, the maternal mortality ratio (number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births) has declined at an average of less than 1% per year.
Millennium Development Goal 5 aims to reduce maternal mortality by 75% between 1990 and 2015, but the current declining rate is less than 1/5th the rate necessary to achieve that target.
In Ireland, a woman's lifetime risk of maternal death is 1 in 48,000. In Niger, it is 1 in 7.
Girls under 15 are five times more likely to do during childbirth than are women in their 20s.
With regard to maternal death rates, there are huge discrepancies between different socio-economic groups. Poorer, rural, less educated communities have far higher death rates than do wealthier, urban, educated communities. This rich-poor discrepancy is the largest discrepancy amongst all the public health indicators tracked by the World Health Organization.
- It is estimated that almost three-quarters of maternal deaths can be eliminated by increasing women's access to comprehensive reproductive health services, within the larger context of promoting human rights and reducing poverty.
Only 57% of women in developing countries give birth with a skilled medical professional present. In sub-Saharan Africa, only 40% of women give birth with a trained professional present.
About 80% of maternal deaths are caused by one of the following causes: severe bleeding, infections, unsafe abortion, hypertensive disorders (pre-eclampsia and eclampsia), and obstructed labor.
Almost 14 million girls between the ages of 15 and 19 give birth every year, accounting for nearly 10% of all childbirths.
About 18 million unsafe abortions are carried out in developing countries every year, resulting in almost 70,000 maternal deaths.
By 2015, another 330,000 midwives are needed to achieve universal reproductive health coverage for expecting mothers.
Most UN treaty monitoring bodies have addressed specific interventions to prevent maternal death, including skilled attendance at birth and access to emergency obstetric care.
- In June 2009, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a landmark resolution on maternal mortality.
There is not a single human rights mechanism with a focus on the immense problem of maternal deaths.
Photos: 1st photo - CARE Peru. 2nd photo - 2003 Jim Hall/CARE. 3rd photo - © 2006 Kate Holt/CARE.