Chapter

Maternal mortality

Author(s):
International Monetary Fund
Published Date:
June 2000
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Goal: Reduce maternal mortality ratios by three-quarters by 2015

More than 500,000 women died during pregnancy and childbirth in 1995—and many millions more suffered without treatment

Ninety-nine percent of maternal deaths occur in developing countries, most of them preventable. Infections, blood loss and unsafe abortion account for the majority of deaths. To reduce maternal mortality, more investment in health systems is needed to improve the quality and coverage of delivery services and to provide prenatal and postnatal care for the poor.

Skilled care at birth still not available In many places

Proportion of births attended by skilled health personnel (%)

Maternal deaths are hard to measure. The proportion of births attended by skilled personnel helps to track progress in reducing maternal mortality. In regions where skilled attendants are not routinely available, the goal is to have skilled attendants at 90% of births by 2015.

“I am going to the sea to fetch a new baby, but the journey is long and dangerous, and I may not return.

Commitment counts

We know what to do to reduce maternal mortality. The necessary services include family planning, basic maternal care, skilled birth attendants, neonatal care and preventing and treating unsafe abortions and the complications of pregnancy and delivery. And we know the cost—about $3 a person a year in low-income countries. Despite their low incomes, China, Cuba and Sri Lanka have all reduced maternal deaths through efforts to improve access to primary health care, strengthen health systems and improve the quality of health care.

Maternal mortality varies widely in the world’s regions—low in Latin America, but very high in Africa. In many poor African countries, one mother dies from complications of pregnancy and delivery for every 100 live births.

514,000 maternal deaths

Thousands of maternal deaths, 1995

Skilled health personnel help to reduce maternal mortality

Maternal deaths per 100,000 live births (log scale), 1995

Births attended by skilled health personnel (%), most recent year since 1992

Health workers with midwifery skills are the key to reducing maternal mortality. As well as attending births, they provide mothers with basic information about prenatal and postnatal care for themselves and their children. Improving women’s social status and ensuring gender equity in health care are important in achieving this goal.

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