Safe Motherhood and Newborn Health

Every day we hear about the dangers of cancer, heart disease and AIDS. But how many of us realize that, in much of the world, the act of giving life to a child is still the biggest killer of women of child-bearing age?

– Liya Kebede

Pregnancy-related complications are a leading cause of death and disability for women aged 15-49 worldwide. Half a million women die in pregnancy or childbirth annually. At the same time, more than 10 million children die each year before reaching their fifth birthdays; 40% of those deaths occur within the first month of life. Maternal and newborn health are very tightly linked: a child whose mother has died giving birth has a much greater chance of dying during their first year. A healthy mother is also more likely to give birth to a healthy child.

The main causes of maternal death are fairly universal. About 80% of maternal deaths worldwide are caused by 5 well-understood and relatively common complications: bleeding, infection, high blood pressure associated with pregnancy, prolonged or obstructed labour, and complications from unsafe abortion. Access to skilled attendance at birth and emergency obstetrical care in the event of complications would have dramatic impacts on maternal mortality rates. Huge impacts on infant mortality can also be made with relatively simple interventions. Keeping the newborn warm, exclusive breastfeeding, preventing malaria and tetanus, and enabling early recognition of illness and care seeking would have important results.

Safe Motherhood and Newborn Health