For women and adolescent girls of reproductive age, the biological functions of pregnancy and childbirth intersect with gender inequalities and poverty to expose women to maternal health risks. A lack of autonomy to make decisions about one’s own health care, low levels of education circumscribing the ability to make informed health care decisions, limited control over financial resources, restricted mobility to access health care services and power differentials between health care providers and recipients are all factors which may preclude women from receiving the quality of care essential for ensuring healthy pregnancies and deliveries.

Though the maternal mortality ratio declined by 37 per cent between 2000 – 2015, there were an estimated 303,000 maternal deaths worldwide in 2015 due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth. Almost all (99 per cent) occurred in developing regions, with the highest level (546 per 100,000 live births) in sub-Saharan Africa, followed by South Asia (182 per 100,000 live births).


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Notes on the data

  1. UNICEF, Progress for Every Child in the SDG Era, New York, 2018.