Statistics on Maternal Mortality

Content

1. Numbers
2. Geographical breakdown
3. Causes
4. Consequences

1. Numbers

Maternal death, or maternal mortality, is the death of a woman due to childbirth or during a pregnancy. Until the turning point some years ago, more than half a million women died during pregnancy or childbirth every year, and many millions suffered from inadequately treated complications. The most recent numbers show a considerable improvement: in 2013, an estimated 289,000 women died worldwide from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. A 45% reduction in maternal deaths has been achieved since 1990. And there’s been an acceleration of the reduction of the maternal mortality rate: 3.6% annual decline between 2000 and 2013 as opposed to a 1.4% decline between 1990 and 2000.

This improvement took place despite population growth. In relative numbers: in 2013, there were 210 maternal deaths per every 100 000 life births, down from 380 in 1990. In India, for example, maternal mortality rate dropped 40% from 2005 to 2010.

It’s not clear whether this is a real improvement or just the result of better data collection and calculation.

And yet, despite the improvements, around 800 women still die every day due to complications in childbirth and pregnancy. It goes without saying that maternal mortality is mainly a problem of the developing world. In fact, 99% of maternal deaths occur in developing countries. A third of global maternal deaths occur in just two countries, India (50,000) and Nigeria (40,000), two very populous countries.

In Sub Saharan Africa, women face a 1 in 39 risk of dying in childbirth. In Sweden that’s 1 in 11400. For every 1 woman who dies in childbirth in Sweden, there are 495 in Nigeria. Women in the U.S. face a one-in-2,400 risk, the highest of any industrialized nation. The United States are only 50th in the world for maternal mortality, with maternal mortality rates higher than almost all European countries, as well as several countries in Asia and the Middle East.

Many developing countries still have to reach the rates that countries in the West have surpassed centuries ago:

maternal mortality

(source)

The total numbers for the world are high – 300.000 unnecessary deaths is a lot – but historically speaking we’re at an all-time low:

probability of infant and maternal death

probability of infant and maternal death

(source)
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2. Geographical breakdown

About half of maternal deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa and about one third occur in South Asia – the two regions together account for about 85 per cent of all maternal deaths. One in 39 women in sub-Saharan Africa dies during childbirth, compared to one in 3,800 in the developed world, and one in 290 in Asia. At 500 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, sub-Saharan Africa has the highest maternal mortality ratio in the world, well above Southern Asia (220), Oceania (200), South-eastern Asia (150), and Latin America and the Caribbean (80).

The ten countries below collectively account for about 60% of global maternal deaths. Two countries alone accounted for nearly a third of all global maternal deaths – India at 17% (50 000) and Nigeria at 14% (40 000):

Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 9.03.07 PM

(source)

maternal mortality rates

(source)

maternal mortality trends

(source)

Screen_Shot_2014-05-05_at_10.11.00_AM

(source)

Numbers for the US:

maternal mortality in the US

(source)
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3. Causes

These are the major causes of maternal mortality, as well as the basic remedies:

causes of maternal mortality

(source)

One of the main causes is unsafe childbirth, so it’s good to see that there has been some progress in the number of assisted deliveries:

assisted deliveries

(source)

skilled attendant at delivery

(source)

There is a strong correlation between the age of the mother and maternal mortality. Girls between the ages of l0 and 14 are five times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth than women aged 20-24. Girls between the ages of 15 and 19 are twice as likely to die:

maternal mortality age of mothers

(source)

Each day, about 20,000 girls in the global south give birth before age 18. Childbirth is a leading cause of death for girls 15-18 (source).

Here’s a graph showing the influence of abortion restrictions on maternal mortality:

maternal mortality and abortion

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4. Consequences

Apart from the obvious consequences for the mothers concerned, maternal mortality also severely impacts on the children who are left motherless. These children are 10 times more likely than their peers to die within two years of their mothers’ deaths. Young girls who survive are often forced to leave school to care for siblings, which diminishes their chances of avoiding poverty later in life.

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7 Comments

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