Most girls grow up wanting to be mothers, of bearing and nurturing life. But for many millions of women, the process of pregnancy and the postpartum period can turn deadly for both mother and child. According to the WHO, around 800 women die every day due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth.
The major complications that account for almost 75% of all maternal deaths are severe bleeding, infections (usually after childbirth), high blood pressure during pregnancy (pre-eclampsia and eclampsia), complications from delivery and unsafe abortion. What makes the situation worse is that most of these causes are avoidable or treatable with proper care, education and processes in place. Timely management and treatment can make the difference between life and death.
The main goals of the UN Millennium Development Goal 5–Maternal Health is to reduce the maternal mortality ratio by at least three quarters, and to achieve universal access to reproductive health by 2015. According to the UN, maternal health encompasses the health of women during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period. It includes in its purview elements of family planning, preconception, prenatal and postnatal care.
Where we stand now
In the past 23 years, we have made some progress in providing safer, less lethal conditions and options available to expectant and new mothers. Between 1990 and 2013, the worldwide maternity mortality rate fell almost 45% from 523,000 deaths in 1990 to 289,000 deaths in 2013. This is still far from the UN Millennium Development Goal of a 75% drop, and accelerated interventions are required in order to meet the target by 2015. That translates to a drop to 131,000 deaths by 2015. A Herculean task, certainly, but not impossible. Continue reading