The State of Maternal Health

Maternal mortality is a top cause of death among women of reproductive age in developing countries. Approximately 350,000 women die each year due to pregnancy-related causes, despite recent improvements and international commitments to reducing maternal mortality. Women under the age of 18 and above 35 are more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth, due to physical underdevelopment for young women and a higher risk of complications among older women.

Unintended pregnancies are an important cause of maternal deaths. Pregnancies that occur too early, too late or too frequently can lead to illness during pregnancy and complications at the time of birth. Lowering fertility rates by increasing the use of family planning helps to reduce pregnancy-related deaths and population growth. In many countries with high maternal mortality, fertility rates would be lower if women had the number of children they desire.

The U.S. and other donors should work with developing country governments and non-governmental partners to meet the demand for family planning. Family planning has the dual benefit of saving women’s lives by empowering them to delay and space their pregnancies and slowing population growth by lowering fertility rates. The prevention of unintended pregnancy through
reproductive health care is necessary to ensure women have healthy pregnancies and safe deliveries.