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Yash Tiwari
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Each year, an estimated 3.2 million women in developing countries experience a stillbirth: the death of a fetus after at least 20 weeks of pregnancy. While around a million of these are thought to be attributable to poor care during pregnancy or childbirth, many others are potentially preventable through access to care and information. `The main causes of maternal death related to pregnancy and childbirth. Worldwide, more than 130 women die every day from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth. Maternal deaths caused by indirect causes, such as malaria and HIV infection during pregnancy, make up 43 percent of total annual maternal deaths.

Pregnancy-related conditions are the leading cause of death for adolescent girls and young women of childbearing age, accounting for nearly 23% of all deaths in this age group. In 2012, 15 million pregnant women around the world delivered their babies without assistance from a skilled birth attendant, and every day approximately 4.6 million children are born without health care coverage or support. The consequences of these preventable deaths are enormous. Research has shown that for every mother who dies, 60 more people die in the family, mostly children and older parents.

These deaths are unnecessary and preventable. At its core, maternal health is the same as any other kind of public health: it’s about preventing unnecessary disease with basic medical care, followed by speedy diagnosis and referral to higher-quality care when needed. And the primary benefits don’t come just from keeping women alive or healthy. It’s also about keeping families intact, reducing childhood deaths, improving productivity, reducing poverty, and making life better generally for everyone. The maternal mortality ratio is attributed to a lack of access to basic health services for women. This includes a lack of access to family planning products and information, as well as a lack of skilled birth attendants.

In 1960 maternal mortality rate was the same in all poor countries (approximately 400 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births). By the year 2000, however, over 90 percent of that gap was due to one factor: income. Three-quarters of this remaining gap between the rich and the poor is due to access to maternal health care. In other words, if every country had a similar income level as Canada or Holland, then three-quarters of the difference in maternal mortality rates would disappear. The number of maternal deaths worldwide fell from 350 000 in 1980 to a projected 287 000 in 2011, but this still amounts to 6500 deaths per day from causes related to pregnancy or childbirth. It’s a paradox that in the 21st century, maternal mortality is so high; that we have more effective ways to prevent and treat it than ever before, yet only about 20 percent of the deaths can be prevented.