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Maternal health

We support women to plan, space and deliver their pregnancies safely.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of women die during pregnancy or childbirth, due to lack of access to appropriate care and services.

The five main causes of maternal death are haemorrhage, infection, unsafe abortion, eclampsia and obstructed labour. Tragically, almost all of these deaths are preventable or treatable with the right care and support.

For women in much of the world, pregnancy and giving birth are life threatening events. Around 289,000 women die each year from carrying or giving birth to a child. And many more suffer pregnancy-related health problems, which can have a devastating effect on their health, family and income.

We are working to deliver life-saving services to the women who need them most; women who would otherwise have no choice but to give birth without properly skilled attendants or emergency obstetric care. Our teams take our services to even the most remote, impoverished, hostile and politically unstable areas, doing whatever it takes to reach the women who need us.

Only 40% of births in the developing world are attended by a skilled health worker. This figure is as low as 10% in some countries.

What are we doing to change things?

Multiple pregnancies can become increasingly demanding for a mother, and can put her and her baby’s life at greater risk. So by supporting women to plan and space their children – through access to appropriate contraception and safe abortions – our services are protecting women’s health in a simple but very powerful way.

Our maternal health work also involves:

  • Educating women about safe motherhood.
  • Providing prenatal and obstetric care.
  • Training skilled birth attendants.
  • Managing complications and emergencies.
  • Caring for mothers after birth.

Working to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 3

We’re committed to helping countries achieve Sustainable Development Goal 3.1, which aims to reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 deaths per 100,000 births by 2030.

With this in mind, maternal health sits at the heart of many of our programmes – and we’re working closely with governments and other organisations to improve maternal and neonatal services in many countries. By doing so, we’re giving many more women access to the quality, affordable care they need. 

Learn more about the Sustainable Development Goals on the United Nations' website.

UN website

In 2015, we estimate our services saved the lives of 18,100 women, who would otherwise have lost their lives during pregnancy or childbirth.

By 2020 there will be more women of reproductive age than ever before

We must be ready to serve them

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