Pregnancy, delivery and after birth

Despite progress, the number of maternal and newborn deaths from preventable and treatable conditions remain unacceptably high, particularly in developing countries. 

A pregnant woman smiles whilst stroking her bump (Photo: Corrie Wingate)

A pregnant woman smiles whilst stroking her bump (Photo: Corrie Wingate)

Too often the period during pregnancy, delivery and after birth is filled with challenges that can kill mothers and babies. Many of the problems are linked to avoidable health issues and underlined by persisting gender inequalities. These are recognised by SDGs 3 and 5.


While maternal deaths have fallen by around 45 per cent over the past two decades, 800 women still die every day - over 300,000 every year - from preventable causes linked to pregnancy and child birth.

For every woman who dies in childbirth, around 20 more suffer injury, infection or disease – that’s a total of over 10 million women each year.

Newborn deaths – children under one month of age – have also reduced, but 2.6 million still occur every year. That's over 7,000 per day. Additionally, estimates show a further 2.6 million stillbirths per year.

SDG3 sets a target of reducing the global maternal deaths to less than 70 per 100,000 and newborn deaths to less than 12 per 1000 live births by 2030. So far, progress in most developing countries is too slow to achieve this.


Most deaths seem to occur between the third trimester and the first week after the end of pregnancy.


Ninety-nine per cent of these deaths occur in the developing world. 

In the developed world, a woman's lifetime risk of dying during or following pregnancy is one in 4,900 but in developing countries that risk is one in 180, and even more common in countries currently or recently in conflict.


Over half of maternal deaths are due to preventable or treatable conditions such as haemorrhage, hypertensive disorders, sepsis and obstructed labour.

For newborns, most deaths are due to premature birth, infections and complications of asphyxia, again all preventable or treatable conditions.

Poverty and gender inequality act as key barriers to knowledge and use of services.

Furthermore, services such as those for antenatal, delivery and postnatal care, sexual and reproductive health, safe abortion, prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV, management of maternal and newborn complications and specialised care for sick and small babies are often poor quality and inaccessible.  

They fail to reach one third or more of the women and children who need them, predominantly the poorest.  Services requiring an effective health system have least coverage.

Local communities have the answers

Women and Children First is supporting communities to save the lives of mothers and newborn babies in some of the world’s poorest communities.

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