Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

New Report: Fewer Women Dying in Pregnancy, Childbirth

May 16, 2012

The number of women dying in pregnancy and childbirth, worldwide, has decreased by almost half, over a twenty year period (from 1990 - 2010), according to a new report. It's good news, says Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA. But there's a lot more work to do. Mark Goldberg, writing at UN Dispatch, says "pregnancy is still unacceptably dangerous in some parts of the world."

Though this is no doubt progress, the global goal - to reduce maternal deaths by 75 percent by 2015 - won't be met in sub-Saharan Africa, in particular--the region of the world with the most maternal deaths. It's not because we don't have the tools to make change, however.

Jill Scheffield, President of Women Deliver, is clear: “The good news is that we know what works, and we know the cost of inaction. What we need now – and more urgently than ever – are even stronger political and financial commitments to save and improve the lives of girls, women, and newborns.”

“We know exactly what to do to prevent maternal deaths: improve access to voluntary family planning, invest in health workers with midwifery skills, and ensure access to emergency obstetric care when complications arise. These interventions have proven to save lives and accelerate progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goal 5," said Dr. Osotimehin.

When only 22 percent of women in sub-Saharan Africa have access to modern contraceptive methods, it's not a surprise that maternal deaths remain high there. When a woman faces a 1 in 39 lifetime risk of dying due to pregnancy or childbirth-related complications, in that region, the focus on ensuring access to contraception, investing in midwives and other health care workers, and access to emergency care are no-brainers.

You can read the full report here. And join the #Motherhood conversation on Twitter to add your thoughts on what more must be done to ensure that the number of women dying while giving life continues to decrease until all women have access to the tools and care they deserve.

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