Three stats and a map

Resident physicians Brooke Jemelka, Gavin Puthoff and Alexis Simon stand around Carmen Hinze as the proud father, Dan, looks on in her recovery room after she delivered her son, Thaddeus, at Mercy Hospital in St. Louis. (CNS photo/Lisa Johnston, St. Louis Review)

Mixed message on maternal mortality

A May report from the Institute for Health Metrics at the University of Washington shows that, globally, fewer women are dying from pregnancy related causes. While maternal mortality remains a significant issue – there were more than 292,000 maternal deaths in 2013, and some countries actually saw increases in their maternal death rates – the report found that, overall, the number of mothers dying worldwide has decreased by 2.7 percent every year since 2003.

The report, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, used the World Health Organization’s Global Burden of Disease cause of death database to estimate maternal mortality from 1990 to 2013 and also included analyses of data from 1980 to 1990 to “improve the robustness of the time trend estimation.”

According to the report:

  • One country in Africa and 15 countries across Europe, Asia and the Middle East are expected to meet the Millennial Development Goal of reducing their maternal death rates by 75 percent before 2015. East Asian countries have made the most progress toward this goal, reducing the maternal death rate by 9 percent each year since 1990.
  • Between 2003 and 2013, eight countries saw increases in their maternal mortality rates, including the United States and South Sudan, which has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world. Iceland has the lowest maternal mortality rate.
  • Almost 50 percent of maternal deaths are caused by complications related to abortion, maternal hemorrhage and hypertensive disorders. The report’s authors believe the continued promotion of health initiatives and of skilled birth attendance could prevent some of these deaths.

This interactive map from the World Health Organization shows global maternal mortality rates in 2013 .