Maternal health encompasses the health of women during and just after pregnancy, a time when women are at risk of complications and even death. Global Burden of Disease (GBD) research has found that maternal deaths have decreased significantly since 1990, although 293,000 women still died in 2013 from pregnancy-related causes.
Most maternal deaths are related to complications of childbirth and the period post-delivery. Approximately 25% of deaths occur during delivery and the 24 hours following; another 25% happen during pregnancy, and the rest occur up to one year after delivery. The vast majority of maternal deaths occur in developing countries. Leading causes include hemorrhage, infections, high blood pressure during pregnancy (pre-eclampsia and eclampsia), delivery complications such as obstructed labor, and unsafe abortion.
Many maternal deaths are preventable if women have access to medical care and adequate nutrition during pregnancy, including iron and calcium supplementation. Prenatal care, prevention of malaria during pregnancy, and giving birth in a health facility or with a skilled birth attendant also increase a mother’s chances of survival.