Wednesday, 17 April, 2024
HomeNews UpdateA woman dies every two minutes in pregnancy or childbirth: UN report

A woman dies every two minutes in pregnancy or childbirth: UN report

Maternal mortality rates climbed or stagnated in nearly all regions across the world in 2020, according to a report released by United Nations agencies, marking a major setback in global efforts to combat complications during childbirth or pregnancy.

The report, which tracks maternal mortality nationally, regionally and globally from 2000 to 2020, showed an estimated 287 000 maternal deaths worldwide in 2020, and marks only a slight decrease from 309 000 in 2016, reports Reuters.

That translates to a woman dying every two minutes during childbirth or pregnancy.

Natalia Kanem, executive director at the United Nations Population Fund, said it was unacceptable that so many women continue to die needlessly in pregnancy and childbirth.

“More than 280 000 fatalities in a single year is unconscionable,” she said.

The data suggest that deaths climbed in areas with less access to timely health services, said study author and World Health Organisation epidemiologist Jenny Cresswell.

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

The report, however, noted a significant reduction in maternal deaths between 2000 and 2015, where they dropped roughly 2.7% every year, but the progress largely stalled or even reversed after a point.

Most deaths were largely concentrated in the poorest parts of the world, and in countries affected by conflict.

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

Severe bleeding, high blood pressure, pregnancy-related infections, complications from unsafe abortion, and underlying conditions that can be aggravated by pregnancy (such as HIV/Aids and malaria) are the leading causes of maternal deaths. These are all largely preventable and treatable with access to high-quality and respectful healthcare.

Cresswell said global mortality rates have been “effectively zero” in the first five years since the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) came into effect.

The SDGs target was to reduce global maternal deaths to 70 per 100 000 live births by 2030.

The 2020 rate was estimated at 223 maternal deaths per 100 000 live births.

While the pandemic may have further held back progress, said the agencies, “the trends we’re seeing have been occurring for five or six years at least, so they predate the pandemic by several years”.

maternal mortality


Reuters article – Most parts of world saw maternal mortality rates spike in 2020 (Open access)


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


Maternal mortality death ratios slashed in SA’s public health facilities


Association between day of delivery and maternal foetal mortality


SA to miss UN goals on reducing child and maternal deaths


Africa’s neonatal death rate five times higher than 2030 target – WHO report


African Academy of Sciences report on improving maternal, neonatal and child health





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