A woman dies every 2 minutes due to pregnancy or childbirth: UN agencies

A woman dies every 2 minutes due to pregnancy or childbirth: UN agencies

New data reveals major setbacks for maternal health in many parts of the world

By Peter Kenny

GENEVA (AA) - A woman dies during pregnancy or childbirth every two minutes, according to a new report by UN agencies on Thursday.

The report, Trends in maternal mortality, revealed alarming setbacks for women’s health over recent years, as maternal deaths either increased or stagnated in nearly all regions of the world, but noted that progress is possible.

“While pregnancy should be a time of immense hope and a positive experience for all women, it is tragically still a shockingly dangerous experience for millions around the world who lack access to high quality, respectful health care,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the World Health Organization (WHO) chief.

“These new statistics reveal the urgent need to ensure every woman and girl has access to critical health services before, during, and after childbirth, and that they can fully exercise their reproductive rights.”

The report tracked maternal deaths nationally, regionally, and globally from 2000 to 2020. It showed there were an estimated 287,000 maternal deaths worldwide in 2020.

That number marked only a slight decrease from 309,000 in 2016 when the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) emerged.


- Stalled gains

While the report presented some progress in reducing maternal deaths between 2000 and 2015, gains essentially stalled, or in some cases even reversed, after this point.

In two of the eight UN regions – Europe and Northern America – the maternal mortality rate increased from 2016 to 2020 by 17%, and in Latin America and the Caribbean, it climbed by 15%.

Elsewhere, the rate stagnated.

In 2020, about 70% of all maternal deaths were in sub-Saharan Africa.

In total numbers, maternal deaths remain concentrated mainly in the poorest parts of the world and countries affected by conflict.

Two regions – Australia and New Zealand, and Central and Southern Asia – experienced significant declines (by 35% and 16%, respectively) in their maternal mortality rates during the same period, as did 31 countries worldwide.

“For millions of families, the miracle of childbirth is marred by the tragedy of maternal deaths,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell.

“No mother should have to fear for her life while bringing a baby into the world, especially when the knowledge and tools to treat common complications exist,” Russell added.

She said that equity in health care gives every mother a fair chance at a safe delivery and a healthy future with their family.

In nine countries facing severe humanitarian crises, maternal mortality rates were more than double the world average (551 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, compared to 223 globally).

“With immediate action, more investments in primary health care and stronger, more resilient health systems, we can save lives, improve health and well-being, and advance the rights of and opportunities for women and adolescents,” said Juan Pablo Uribe, who heads the global health, nutrition, and population at the World Bank.

The COVID-19 pandemic may have further held back progress on maternal health, according to the report.

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