Maternal Health

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Every two minutes, a woman dies of preventable pregnancy or childbirth complications.

Every day, this amounts to 800 needless deaths. Nearly all of these deaths are preventable. While maternal deaths happen in every country and every community, the vast majority occur among women in developing countries, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia, and more than half occur in humanitarian settings. When mothers die, their families are much more vulnerable to poverty and poor health and their babies are more likely to die before their second birthday.
For every woman who loses her life to a pregnancy or childbirth complication, 20 to 30 additional women experience infections, injuries, or disabilities. One of the most debilitating birth injuries is obstetric fistula, which occurs during prolonged or obstructed labor and results in a hole in the birth canal that leaves the woman leaking urine or feces. 90 percent of women who develop a fistula deliver a stillborn baby. Fistula survivors often experience years of poor health and social isolation before receiving treatment.
Maternal deaths and injuries are the result of women and girls having little decision-making power over their life and bodies and limited access to lifesaving family planning, prenatal, and safe delivery care. Making motherhood safe is a human rights imperative and is at the core of our mandate.
Our Work to Make Motherhood Safe

Our Work to Make Motherhood Safe

  • Providing women with access to family planning counseling, so they have the information and resources they need to prevent unintended pregnancy.
  • Reaching women with skilled prenatal and postpartum care. This ensures women have the medicine and nutrition they need for healthy pregnancies, that they and their newborns recover well after birth, and that life-threatening issues are identified before it’s too late.
  • Training, equipping, and deploying midwives around the world, so women everywhere have the care they need during childbirth. We also provide emergency obstetric care, so if something does go wrong, women survive.

Our Impact in 2022

prevented last year
1.4 M
safely delivered in fragile settings
trained to provide maternal care, including in emergency settings
Moving Mountains to Provide Care

Moving Mountains to Provide Care

In Lucia’s region of the Dominican Republic, pregnant women used to have to walk through the mountains to reach the nearest clinic for prenatal care. At 19, Lucia had experienced this with her first two pregnancies. “To go to the hospital, I would walk out and have to sit down to rest because I got dizzy.” But now, during her third pregnancy, she has a new way to get the care she needs: motorcycle ambulances. UNFPA supplied these ambulances, as well as trained health care workers, equipped 10 primary care centers, increased access to family planning, and provided new mothers like Lucia with food packages and mama kits.

Obstetric Fistula

Obstetric Fistula

Obstetric fistula is a debilitating childbirth injury that primarily affects the world’s most vulnerable women and girls. Razia, who lives in Pakistan, experienced child marriage, early pregnancy, the stillbirth of her first child, and she lived multiple fistulas which left her leaking urine and feces. She remembered, “People would either avoid me or just make fun of me. I never felt clean.” UNFPA reached Razia with fistula repair surgery and, today, she is living life to her fullest potential.

Midwifery and Emergency Obstetric Care

Midwifery and Emergency Obstetric Care

“I want to open a clinic in my native village – which is about 75 miles from the capital – to help the most vulnerable access services like prenatal consultations, contraception, and vaccinations. Many women live in remote areas with no health care facilities nearby, so they often can’t make it to the hospital on time, endangering the lives of both mother and baby,” explained Domoina, who is studying to become a midwife in Madagascar. We support midwifery training programs around the world and work to ensure all women have access to emergency obstetric care in the event of complications.