Last Updated on Nov 27, 2018

What is Maternal Death?

Maternal mortality or maternal death refers to death of a woman occurring during her pregnancy or less than 42 days of childbirth, termination or miscarriage due to pregnancy related complications and treatment.

Maternal Mortality - Key Facts

  • Majority of maternal deaths (99%) occur in developing nations; maternal mortality is higher in rural communities and among women belonging to the poorer socioeconomic status
  • Even within countries, variations in maternal deaths occur with lower rates reported in women belonging to wealthier households, those having better education, living in urban areas, and having access to health care services
  • More than half of maternal deaths happen in sub-Saharan Africa and nearly one third occur in South Asia. Over half of maternal deaths occur in suboptimal humanitarian conditions
  • Countries with the lowest maternal deaths wereGreece, Finland, Iceland,and Poland according to a United Nations Population Fund report in 2010
  • The average maternal mortality ratio in developing countries in 2015 was 239 per 100,000 live births compared to 12 per 100,000 live births in developed nations. Among the developed nations, the US has the highest maternal mortality ratio of 18.5 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2013
  • Every day over 800 deaths or nearly 300,000 deaths annually occur due to causes attributable to pregnancy and childbirth that can be easily prevented
  • Since 1990 to 2015, maternal mortality across the world has dropped by 44%
  • Pregnancy in adolescence is associated with an increased risk of complications including death compared to other age groups
  • As part of the Sustainable Development Goals, it is aimed to reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births by the year 2030

How is Maternal Health Measured?

The four measures of maternal death include

  • Maternal mortality ratio(MMR)
  • Maternal mortality rate
  • Lifetime risk of maternal death
  • Proportion of maternal deaths out of total deaths in women of reproductive age (PM).

Maternal mortality ratio (MMR) - Number of maternal deaths during a given time period per 100,000 divided by live births during the same time period. The MMR is used as a measure of the quality of a health care system.

Maternal mortality rate - Number of maternal deaths in a given population divided by the number of women of reproductive age, usually expressed per 1,000 women

Lifetime risk of maternal death - Probability that a 15-year-old woman will die from a pregnancy/childbirth related cause if she is exposed to similar risks of maternal death and the overall levels of fertility and mortality seen in a given population

Proportion of maternal deaths out of deaths in women of reproductive age (PM) - Number of maternal deaths in a given time period divided by the total deaths in women belonging to reproductive age group between 15 to 49 years


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