Maternal health

Woman and her newborn, Myanmar

New WHO evidence on mistreatment of women during childbirth

9 October 2019 | New evidence from a WHO-led study in four countries shows that more than one-third of women experienced mistreatment during childbirth in health facilities. The study, carried out in Ghana, Guinea, Myanmar and Nigeria showed that women were at the highest risk of experiencing physical and verbal abuse between 30 minutes before birth until 15 minutes after birth. Younger, less-educated women were most at risk, suggesting inequalities in how women are treated during childbirth. Addressing these inequalities and promoting respectful maternity care for all women is critical to improve health equity and quality.

Image of report front cover

Maternal deaths decline slowly with vast inequalities worldwide

19 September 2019 | A new report on maternal mortality, released today by WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, World Bank Group and the United Nations Population Division, estimates a worldwide number of 295 000 maternal deaths in 2017. This figure represents a 38% reduction since the year 2000 an average reduction of just under 3% per year. For women, this means that the global lifetime risk of maternal mortality – the risk that a 15-year old girl will die eventually from a maternal cause –was approximately 1 in 190 for 2017, nearly half of the level of risk in 2000.

A woman attends a health education session in northern Nigeria

Maternal health in Nigeria: generating information for action

25 June 2019 | Information is essential for change, but in settings where information is not readily available, epidemiological research becomes one of the most powerful sources of information for change. A supplement by the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (BJOG) titled “Application of maternal near-miss approach to audits of severe maternal complications in a low-resource country” reinforces this message.
Nearly 100% of global maternal deaths occur in developing countries with more than half of these deaths occurring in sub-Saharan Africa and almost one third happening in South Asia. More than half of maternal deaths occur in fragile and humanitarian settings.

A nurse measures the abdomen of a six months pregnant woman during a prenatal consultation, Mali

Maternal health refers to the health of women during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period. While motherhood is often a positive and fulfilling experience, for too many women it is associated with suffering, ill-health and even death. The major direct causes of maternal morbidity and mortality include haemorrhage, infection, high blood pressure, unsafe abortion, and obstructed labour.

A mother and her infant.

New programme reporting standards for sexual, reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health programmes

14 September 2017 – Reporting on health programmes often covers what was done and not how it was done and in what context. This information is key to understanding impact and can facilitate successful replication and scale-up. To address this, WHO is launching new standards for reporting on sexual, reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health programmes at this year’s Global Evidence Summit in Cape Town, South Africa.

WHO/WPRO/Y Shimizu
Woman in labour with her birth partner

Why having a companion during labour and childbirth may be better for you

19 March 2019 | A new Cochrane qualitative evidence synthesis provides new key insights into the experience of women, families and healthcare providers on having a companion present during labour and childbirth, and factors affecting implementation of labour companionship globally. This new review complements a Cochrane intervention review published in 2017 that explored the effect of continuous support for women during childbirth and which concluded that outcomes for women and babies were improved in the presence of continuous support.

CC BY license
Parents with their newborn baby in a maternity ward, Mexico.

WHO updates guidance to help healthcare workers prevent postpartum haemorrhage

20 December 2018 – Every year about 14 million women around the world suffer from postpartum haemorrhage. This severe bleeding after birth is the largest direct cause of maternal deaths. In addition to the suffering and loss of women’s lives, when women die in childbirth, their babies also face a much greater risk of dying within one month compared to babies whose mothers survive. WHO has now updated its 2012 guidance on the prevention of postpartum haemorrhage with four new recommendations on seven uterotonics.

Woman on operating table meeting baby after c-section

Deaths from caesarean sections 100 times higher in developing countries: global study

28 March 2019 | Maternal deaths following caesarean sections in low- and middle-income countries are 100 times higher than in high-income countries, with up to a third of all babies dying, according to data from 12 million pregnancies. A new review, published in The Lancet, has considered 196 studies from 67 low- and middle-income countries.

© Lieve Blancquaert
Woman with her newborn baby

New WHO guidance on non-clinical interventions specifically designed to reduce unnecessary caesarean sections

11 October 2018 | First of its kind – new WHO guideline aims to help reduce worldwide increase in caesarean section rates.

Worldwide, caesarean section rates have been steadily increasing, without significant benefit to the health of women or their babies. In recognition of the urgent need to address the sustained and unprecedented rise in these rates, WHO has today published new guidance on non-clinical interventions specifically designed to reduce unnecessary caesarean sections.

Parents with their newborn baby, Malaysia.

Making childbirth a positive experience

15 February 2018 | Launch of new WHO guideline on intrapartum care - Worldwide, about 140 million women give birth every year. Whilst much is known about the clinical management of labour and childbirth less attention is paid to what, beyond clinical interventions, needs to be done to make women feel safe, comfortable and positive about the experience. A new WHO guideline, launched today, contains 56 evidence-based recommendations detailing both the clinical and non-clinical care that is needed throughout labour and immediately afterwards for women and for newborns. One of the key recommendations in this guideline recognizes that every birth is unique, while some labours progress quickly, others don’t and unnecessary medical interventions should be avoided if the woman and her baby are in good condition.

WHO/Yoshi Shimizu

fact buffet

Every day

810810 women, approximately die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.

Maternal mortality

Almost all

94 %94% of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries.

Maternal mortality

Access to skilled care

80%Almost 80% of live births occurred with the assistance of skilled health personnel in period from 2012-2017

Skilled attendants at birth