10 Facts about Maternal Health

Teenagers To Midwives: How Women In Afghanistan Are Changing Maternal And Infant HealthA mother’s health goes hand-in-hand with the health of her children. These facts, collected by the World Health Organization, show the vital need for providing quality care during pregnancy, childbirth, and the first five years. Eliminating the healthcare gap in developing countries is essential to protect the lives of women and children when they are most at risk. World Vision’s Strong Women, Strong World initiative is committed to reducing maternal and infant deaths and decreasing the number of women suffering from illness as a consequence of pregnancy and childbirth.

1. Worldwide, 800 women die every day due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth – about 287,000 women in 2010. In developing countries, conditions related to pregnancy and childbirth constitute the second leading causes (after HIV/AIDS) of death among women of reproductive age.

2. The four main killers are: severe bleeding, infections, unsafe abortion, and hypertensive disorders (pre-eclampsia and eclampsia). Bleeding after delivery can kill even a healthy woman, if unattended, within two hours. Most of these deaths are preventable.

3. More than 136 million women give birth a year. About 20 million of them experience pregnancy-related illness after childbirth. The list of morbidities is long and diverse, and includes fever, anemia, fistula, incontinence, infertility and depression. Women who suffer from fistula are often stigmatized and ostracized by their husbands, families and communities.

4. About 16 million girls aged between 15 and 19 give birth each year, accounting for more than 10% of all births. In the developing world, about 90% of the births to adolescents occur in marriage. In low- and middle-income countries, complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among girls 15-19.

5. The state of maternal health mirrors the gap between the rich and the poor. Less than 1% of maternal deaths occur in high-income countries. A woman’s lifetime risk of dying from complications in childbirth or pregnancy is an average of one in 150 in developing countries and compared to one in 3800 in developed countries. Also, maternal mortality is higher in rural areas and among poorer and less educated communities. Of the 800 women who die every day,440 live in sub-Saharan Africa, 230 in Southern Asia and five in high-income countries.

6. Most maternal deaths can be prevented through skilled care at childbirth and access to emergency obstetric care. In sub-Saharan Africa, where maternal mortality ratios are the highest, less than 50% of women are attended by a trained midwife, nurse or doctor during childbirth.

7. In developing countries, the percentage of women who have at least four antenatal care visits during pregnancy ranges from 56% for rural women to 72% for urban women. Women who do not receive the necessary check-ups miss the opportunity to detect problems and receive appropriate care and treatment. This also includes immunization and prevention of mother-to-child-transmission of HIV/AIDS.

8. About 21 million unsafe abortions are carried out, mostly in developing countries every year, resulting in 47,000 maternal deaths. Many of these deaths could be prevented if information on family planning was available.

9. One target of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is to reduce the maternal mortality ratio by three quarters between 1990 and 2015. So far, progress has been slow. Since 1990 the global maternal mortality ratio has declined by only 3.1 % annually instead of the 5.5% needed to achieve MDG 5, aimed at improving maternal health.

10. The main obstacle to progress towards better health for mothers is the lack of skilled care. This is aggravated by a global shortage of qualified health workers.

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