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GMR 2009: Goal 5: Improve Maternal Health

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Targets:

  • Reduce by three-quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality ratio
  • Achieve by 2015 universal access to reproductive health
Among all the MDGs, the least progress has been made in improving maternal health, and a full achievement of the MDG 5 targets remains a challenging task. Every year, more than 500,000 women die from complications during pregnancy, childbirth, or in the six weeks after delivery. Most of these women live in low-income countries. Progress in Sub-Saharan Africa-a region with the highest maternal mortality rate-has been negligible. Improving the access to and quality of births attended by skilled personnel, providing prenatal care, and reducing the number of pregnancies (particularly among adolescents) can all contribute to reducing the number of maternal deaths.

Maternal mortality rates
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The maternal mortality rate is the number of women who die from pregnancy-related complications during pregnancy or delivery, per 100,000 live births. Such statistics are very difficult to collect through surveys, and data reported here rely on modeling techniques developed by the World Health Organization, United Nations Children's Fund, and United Nations Population Fund. The increased share of attended births contributes to declines in maternal mortality rates.

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The contraceptive prevalence rate is the percentage of married women ages 15-49 who use, or whose sexual partners use, any form of contraception. This rate has increased for all income groups between 1990 and 2007, but is still quite low at only 33 percent for low-income countries in 2007.

 

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Births attended by skilled health staff are the percentage of deliveries attended by personnel trained to give the necessary supervision, care, and advice to women during pregnancy, labor, and the postpartum period. Increasing attended births helps decrease the maternal mortality rate. Twenty-one of 23 countries in Europe and Central Asia and 19 of 26 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have achieved the target to lower the nonattendance rate to 10 percent by 2015, but most South Asian and Sub-Saharan African countries are not on track.

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Maternal death is correlated with poor health care during pregnancy and childbirth. Prenatal care coverage is the percentage of women attended during pregnancy by skilled health personnel for pregnancy-related issues. One of the regions with the highest maternal mortality rates, South Asia, has shown improvements in the percentage of pregnant women who have received prenatal care at least once, increasing from 47 to 69 percent from 1990 to 2007. Although this shows progress, a healthy pregnancy requires much more than one or two prenatal visits. The number of women who received prenatal care at least four times increased only marginally, from 26 to 34 percent between the two years.

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Giving birth at an early age puts young women at an increased risk of pregnancy complications and, in some cases, death. The adolescent fertility rate is defined as the number of births per 1,000 women ages 15-19. From 1997 to 2007, the rate has marginally declined in all regions. The largest decrease between the two years is in Latin America and the Caribbean, where the rate dropped from 102 to 74. Progress was less dramatic in the most fertile region, Sub-Saharan Africa, where the rate only decreased from 141 to 134.

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