An overview of Global Maternal Health (FAQs)

By Tanzoom Ahmed (Communications and Fundraising Manager, Armman)

As a professional, working for the non-profit sector that is striving to improve maternal health in India, I often come across inquisitive individuals wanting to know more about the global health scenario. Therefore, I thought a brief comparative analysis of the global maternal health scenario will be of great interest to our patrons.  I have used the FAQ format to help you with easy comprehension of the facts and figures.


What is maternal health?

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In order to understand the concept of global maternal health, it is crucial to first learn how maternal health is defined and what it entails. According to World Health Organization (WHO), maternal health refers to the health of women during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period.  Although, motherhood is often considered a fulfilling and positive experience, for a large number of women it is associated with suffering, ill health and even death.  In terms of maternal morbidity and mortality: hemorrhage, infection, high blood pressure, unsafe abortion and obstructed labour are the major direct causes.

World Databank statistics show that approximately 800 women die everyday from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. Out of this total number of deaths, 99 percent occur in developing countries. Research also shows that maternal mortality is higher in women living in rural areas and under poorer conditions.

Where do most maternal deaths occur?

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The most important thing to notice in the global maternal death statistics- is the significant disparities between countries  .  The maternal mortality ratio in developing countries is 240 per 100,000 births versus 16 per 100,000 in developed countries. Similar discrepancies exist in mortality ratios between people from high-income groups and low-income communities, as well as between rural and urban populations.

The risk of maternal mortality is highest for adolescent girls under 15 years of age. Complications in pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of deaths among adolescent girls in most developing countries.

How can women’s lives be saved?

A large number of maternal deaths are avoidable, as the medical solutions to prevent or manage complications are well known.  However, the most critical part is giving all women access to antenatal care during pregnancy, skilled care during childbirth and timely management and treatment.  Additionally, it is also vital to prevent too early and unwanted pregnancies, but in-order to accomplish such methods of prevention; women (including adolescent girls) need to have access to family planning, safe abortion services to the full extent of the law and quality post-abortion care.

What are the major factors that thwart women from receiving adequate care during pregnancy? 

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 Major Indirect Causes:

  1. Poverty
  2. Distance from healthcare services/healthcare providers.
  3. Lack of Information.
  4. Inadequate services.
  5. Cultural Practices



World Bank Report

United Nations



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