The Shocking Reality of Maternal Mortality (with apologies for the rhyme.)

This week in class, we’re covering reproductive health & early marriage & pregnancy.

Vagina News generally focuses on the US, because frankly the idea of staying on top of things globally is overwhelming. But I’m glad this class is global in focus, because it’s teaching me some really important perspective.

Here are a few incredible facts about maternal health around the world:

  • In developing countries, conditions related to pregnancy and childbirth are the second highest cause of death (after HIV/AIDS) among women of reproductive age.
  • About 16 million girls aged between 15 and 19 give birth each year, accounting for more than 10% of all births. In low- and middle-income countries, complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among girls 15-19.
  • Of the 800 women who die of such causes every day, 440 live in sub-Saharan Africa, 230 in Southern Asia and five in high-income countries.
  • About 21 million unsafe abortions are carried out, mostly in developing countries every year, resulting in 47 000 maternal deaths.
  • The vast majority of these deaths are preventable, through access to contraception and reproductive health care. 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.

On the upside, improving maternal health is one of the eight UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) adopted by the international community in 2000. Under MDG5, countries committed to reducing maternal mortality by three quarters between 1990 and 2015. Since 1990, maternal deaths worldwide have dropped by 47%.

In sub-Saharan Africa, a number of countries have halved their levels of maternal mortality since 1990. In other regions, including Asia and North Africa, even greater headway has been made. However, between 1990 and 2010, the global maternal mortality ratio (i.e. the number of maternal deaths per 100 000 live births) declined by only 3.1% per year. This is far from the annual decline of 5.5% required to achieve MDG5.

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