How I Met Your Mother? She survived pregnancy.

Maternal deaths around the world have dropped by 44% in the last 15 years – from 532,000 in 1990 to 303,000 in 2015 – according to the Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2015 – Estimates by WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, World Bank Group and the United Nations Population Division report. “Over the past 25 years, a woman’s risk of dying from pregnancy-related causes has nearly halved,” WHO Assistant Director-General, Family, Women’s and Children’s Health Dr. Flavia Bustreo said. The UN Population Division is part of the UN Secretariat – which is the United Nations' executive arm and not a race horse with diplomatic ambitions. Eastern Asia showed the greatest improvement overall – from 95 to 27 per 100, 000 live births for a 72% reduction. But for all the improvement, only the Maldives, Bhutan, Cambodia, Cape Verde, East Timor, Iran, Laos, Mongolia and Rwanda decreased maternal deaths by between 78 and 90%, and Iceland, Finland, Poland, and Greece (3 deaths per 100,000 births each) are the safest countries to deliver a baby.

The report defines maternal mortality as the death of a woman during pregnancy, childbirth or within six weeks after birth. The improvement in maternity survival rates is an indication that efforts to keep the worldwide average of pregnancy-related deaths below 70 per 100,000 live birth are on the right track – efforts which include the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s new Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health.  “The MDGs triggered unprecedented efforts to reduce maternal mortality,” Bustreo said, adding that the report shows “real progress, although it is not enough. We know that we can virtually end these deaths by 2030 and this is what we are committing to work towards.” “The SDG goal of ending maternal deaths by 2030 is ambitious and achievable provided we redouble our efforts,” Senior Director of Health, Nutrition and Population at the World Bank Group Dr. Tim Evans said. “The recently launched Global Financing Facility in Support of Every Woman Every Child, which focuses on smarter, scaled and sustainable financing, will help countries deliver essential health services to women and children.”As for the Global strategy launched in September 2015, it stresses the importance of reinforcing country leadership by mobilizing domestic and international resources for women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health; strengthening health systems so they provide good quality care in all settings, promote cooperation across sectors, and support individuals and communities to make informed health decisions and demand the quality care they need.

In particular, the disparities between countries need to be addressed so that no one nation averages worse than 140. As Executive Director of the UN Population Fund Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin explains, “many countries with high maternal death rates will make little progress, or will even fall behind, over the next 15 years if we don’t improve the current number of available midwives and other health workers with midwifery skills.” Approximately 99% of global maternal deaths will have occurred in developing areas by the end of 2015 – of which Sub-Saharan Africa will represent 66%. And yet this region of the world was one of the most improved; it went from 987 to 546 deaths per 100,000 live births between 1990 and 2015 (which more than doubles the world average of 216 but is nonetheless a 45% drop). Conversely, the United States was one of only 13 countries to have worse rates of maternal mortality in 2015 than in 1990, but that translates to only 14 deaths per 100,000 live births – which is still 50% more than Canada, which remained at seven throughout the 25-year period.

“We know why mothers die,” WHO's reproductive health coordinator Lale Say said. “They die from severe bleeding, from infections, complications from unsafe abortion and hypertensive disorders of pregnancy. And, we also know that most of these deaths are preventable.” The report stated that access to “essential health interventions” such as “practicing good hygiene to reduce the risk of infection; injecting oxytocin immediately after childbirth to reduce the risk of severe bleeding; identifying and addressing potentially fatal conditions like pregnancy-induced hypertension; and ensuring access to sexual and reproductive health services and family planning for women” are lifesaving maternity support measures. Additionally, “as we have seen with all of the health-related MDGs, health system strengthening needs to be supplemented with attention to other issues to reduce maternal deaths,” UNICEF Deputy Executive Director, Geeta Rao Gupta said. “The education of women and girls, in particular the most marginalized, is key to their survival and that of their children. Education provides them with the knowledge to challenge traditional practices that endanger them and their children.”

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