News / Health

Strides Made in Reducing Maternal Mortality Worldwide

Researchers say maternal mortality has dropped significantly in developing countries thanks to concerted efforts by nations to drive down the number of mothers who die of pregnancy-related complications.  At the same time, a new report says maternal mortality has risen in some developed countries.  

Between 1980 and 2008, the number of women dying during or soon after childbirth fell by more 35 percent worldwide, according to a study carried out by researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle.  

In a survey of 181 nations, researchers say the number of deaths dropped from roughly 500,000 to about 343,000 per year during a nearly 30 year period, falling by about 1.4 percent each year.

Christopher Murray of the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation led the study.

He credits increased education of women in developing countries, an increased number of whom are now giving birth in hospitals.

"A second factor has been the continued decline all over the world of fertility rates," Murray added.  "And fertility rates are strongly associated with maternal mortality.  And that, combined with rising levels of income, are the key factors that are bringing maternal mortality down."

Using vital registration information, census data, surveys and autopsy reports to determine the maternal death rate, researchers found that maternal mortality dropped from 422 per 100,000 births nearly 30 years ago to 251 in 2008.

The nations making the biggest strides included Egypt, Ecuador and Bolivia.  Researchers say China also had a steep drop in maternal mortality, from 165 to 40 deaths per 100,000.

Italy had the lowest maternal mortality rate in 2008.  Researchers found that only four in 100,000 women there died of pregnancy-related complications.

But in some countries in sub-Saharan Africa, maternal mortality rate rose, including in Zimbabwe - the worst performing nation - which posted a 5.5 percent annual increase since 1990.

Almost 80 percent of all maternal deaths were concentrated in 21 countries in 2008; nearly half were in only six countries - India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

HIV played an unexpected role, according to Christopher Murray, who says the sexually transmitted disease has slowed efforts to reduce the maternal mortality rate in some African countries.  

Dr. Murray says the AIDS virus was responsible for more than 64,000 of the 343,000 maternal deaths in 2008.

"And I think this is very important for future policy on maternal health because we haven't made a strong connection between HIV care and maternal health before," added Murray.  "And that's clearly what needs to happen in those regions."

Maternal mortality rates increased during the near 30 year period in some Western countries, notably in the United States, which saw a nearly 42 percent increase from 12 to 17 deaths per 100,000 women since 1990.  Dr. Murray says the increase is likely due to better record keeping.

He says developing countries are on their way toward meeting the United Nations' Millennium Development goal of reducing maternal mortality by 75 percent worldwide by 2015.

The University of Washington's Christopher Murray says the next step is to study why some countries were so successful in driving down their maternal mortality rates and apply those lessons in other nations.

The study on global maternal mortality rates is published in the medical journal The Lancet.

You May Like

Syrian Rebels Poised for Anti-Russia Collaboration

Forty-one insurgent groups issue joint statement vowing retaliation for Russian air offensives More

Political Maneuver Revives Export-Import Bank's Chances

Parliamentary tactic gets bill out of committee, but it faces opposition in the Senate More

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs