A Woman Dies Every Two Minutes Due to Pregnant or Childbirth, UN agencies Says

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The report, titled 'Trends in maternal mortality', showed that there were an estimated 287 000 maternal deaths worldwide in 2020.

Every two minutes, a woman dies during pregnancy or childbirth, according to the latest estimates released in a report by United Nations agencies today. 

The report, published on Thursday, said in 2020, “an estimated 287,000 women globally died from a maternal cause, equivalent to almost 800 maternal deaths every day, and approximately one every two minutes.”

The figure was an improvement compared to the estimated 446,000 maternal deaths 20 years earlier, according to the report.

However, while the death rate among pregnant women or during childbirth has fallen between 2000 and 2015, it has essentially stagnated since then and even increased in some regions.

The data in the report extends to 2020, and the effects of the coronavirus pandemic are not visible in the dataset. The situation in poorer regions and conflict-ridden countries is particularly dramatic, the WHO said.

Sub-Saharan Africa, the WHO said, accounted for about 70 per cent of global maternal deaths in 2020, followed by Central and Southern Asia, which accounted for nearly 17 per cent.

Catherine Russell, executive director of the UN children’s fund UNICEF, one of the bodies comprising the United Nations Maternal Mortality Estimation Inter-Agency Group (MMEIG), said childbirth should not be feared.

“No mother should have to fear for her life while bringing a baby into the world, especially when the knowledge and tools to treat common complications exist,” Ms Russell explained. “Equity in healthcare gives every mother, no matter who they are or where they are, a fair chance at a safe delivery and a healthy future with their family.”

Preventable causes that can lead to death include heavy bleeding, high blood pressure, unsafe abortions or diseases such as HIV/AIDS and malaria.

WHO director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in the report’s foreword that “nearly every death is in low- and middle-income countries and nearly every death is preventable.”

One of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is to reduce maternal mortality from 339 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2000 to less than 70 by 2030.

In 2020 the number stood at 223.

The report said increasing coverage of quality maternal health care and improving women’s ability to make their own decisions about their sexual and reproductive health are among the steps to be taken to reach that goal.