MATERNAL & NEWBORN MORTALITY


About 80% of maternal and newborn deaths are preventable with the implementation of known evidenced-based, high-impact interventions.12


Global Targets

The World Health Assembly, with broad global support, adopted the Every Newborn Action Plan in May 2014. This plan calls for a reduction in country-level maternal mortality ratios to 70 deaths per 100,000 live births by 2030 as well as a reduction of stillbirth rates to 10 stillbirths per 1,000 total births and neonatal mortality rates to 10 deaths per 1,000 live births by 20353.

Global distribution of maternal deaths, by cause, 2013

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*Nearly all (99 per cent) of abortion deaths are due to unsafe abortions.
**This category includes deaths due to obstructed labor or anemia.

Maternal Deaths

Complications during pregnancy and childbirth are a leading cause of death among women between the ages of 15 and 45 in many developing countries. Globally, about 800 women die every day while giving life, and for each of them at least another 20 women suffer injury, infection or disability4. The disparities in maternal mortality ratio between developed and developing countries are grave: 99% of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries, with 62% occurring in sub-Saharan Africa5.

Labor, delivery and the first 48 hours after birth is the most vulnerable time for both the mother and the baby.

A mother's death is a tragedy in and of itself, but it also unravels families and communities. Her death jeopardizes the lives of her newborn and any other children she may have, as well as their likelihood of receiving healthcare and education.

The majority of maternal deaths are due to four causes: 1) hemorrhage, 2) hypertension and seizures, 3) infections and, 4) other direct causes (including obstructed labor). A rise in indirect causes like HIV/AIDS also contributes to a significant percentage of maternal deaths, particularly in Africa7.

Newborn Deaths

Global distribution of neonatal deaths, by cause, 2012

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Maternal and newborn deaths are intertwined. While tremendous progress has been made in reducing under-five childhood deaths, much less progress has been made in addressing newborn deaths. Globally, there are an estimated 2.9 million newborn deaths and 2.6 million stillbirths8 annually. Moreover, newborn deaths now account for 44% of the global under-five childhood mortality9.

Most newborn deaths are due to three causes: 1) preterm birth complications (including prematurity and low birth weight), 2) intrapartum-related complications (including difficulty breathing) and 3) infections11. Women and their newborns need a well-functioning health system to overcome these issues – one that offers services 24/7 by competent providers who have the appropriate equipment, supplies and medicines to conduct a normal delivery and manage, stabilize and refer a complication, if needed.

The Three Delays

Women and their newborns face three key challenges to accessing high-quality services:

  • Delays in deciding to seek care, including limited information about danger signs of complications, cultural beliefs and practices and fear of how they will be treated at the health facility.
  • Delays in getting to care, including lack of available resources to pay for transportation and services, an inability to secure transportation and far distances to health facilities.
  • Delays in receiving care upon arriving at the health facility, including poor health infrastructure; insufficient numbers of qualified health providers; limited availability of equipment, supplies, medicines and blood; and providers’ limited ability to manage complications and provide C-sections.

Saving Mothers, Giving Life works with governments, local institutions and communities to generate demand for health services, promote access to care and improve quality of maternal and newborn health services by addressing the "three delays."


  1. WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, World Bank. "Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2013." WHO Press: Geneva, 2013.
  2. UNICEF, WHO, UNFPA, World Bank. "Levels and Trends in Child Mortality: Report 2013." UNICEF: Geneva, 2013.
  3. WHO, USAID. "Every Newborn: An Action Plan to End Preventable Deaths." WHO Press: Geneva, 2014.
  4. WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, World Bank. "Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2013." WHO Press: Geneva, 2013.
  5. Ibid
  6. UNICEF. "Maternal Mortality: Current Status and Progress." Accessed August 5, 2014. (http://data.unicef.org/maternal-health/maternal-mortality).
  7. WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, World Bank. "Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2013." WHO Press: Geneva, 2013.
  8. Lawn. J . et al "Progress, Priorities and Potential Beyond Survival." The Lancet. Online publication 20 May 2014. DOI 10.1016/S0140-6736 (14) 60496-7
  9. UNICEF, WHO, UNFPA, World Bank. "Levels and Trends in Child Mortality: Report 2013." UNICEF: Geneva, 2013.
  10. UNICEF. "Child Mortality: Current Status and Progress." Accessed August 5, 2014. (http://data.unicef.org/child-mortality/neonatal).
  11. Lawn. J . et al "Progress, Priorities and Potential Beyond Survival." The Lancet. Online publication 20 May 2014. DOI 10.1016/S0140-6736 (14) 60496-7