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Maternal Mortality Rate Drops Worldwide, U.S. Rate Increases

Update Date: Nov 12, 2015 09:36 AM EST

The global maternal mortality rate has declined by nearly 50 percent, the United Nations and the World Bank announced Thursday. Maternal mortality is defined as dying during pregnancy, at childbirth or after six weeks of delivery.

"Over the past 25 years, a woman's risk of dying from pregnancy-related causes has nearly halved," said Flavia Bustreo, assistant director-general for family, women's and children's health at the World Health Organization (WHO), reported by Reuters.

Despite the gains that the world has made in preventing maternal deaths, only nine nations actually met the U.N.'s goal and these nations did not include the United States. The U.S., instead, was one of the few nations that had a higher maternal mortality rate in 2015 than in 1990. Their rate increased from 12 deaths per 100,000 live births to 14 per 100,000. Some of the other countries that had an increase were North Korea and Venezuela.

The countries that were the safest to have babies were Iceland, Finland, Poland and Greece where the death rate was three per 100,000 live births. Belarus was not far behind with the rate of four per 100,000.

In terms of region, East Asia experienced the largest decline from 90 deaths per 100,000 live births to 27 deaths per 100,000.

Overall, the global rate fell by 43 percent. This rate means that for this year, roughly 303,000 women will die due to complications from pregnancy or childbirth (216 deaths per 100,000 live births). The number of maternal deaths in 1990 was 532,000 (385 per 100,000).

The experts noted that the rates declined due to greater access to heath care during pregnancy and after birth, improved sexual and reproductive services and better family planning. The experts stated, however that more needs to be done, especially for poorer countries where the maternal death rates are still very high.

"Many countries with high maternal death rates will make little progress, or will fall behind, over the next 15 years if we don't improve the current number of available midwives and other health workers with midwifery skills," said Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of the UN Population Fund, according to BBC News.

Members of the U.N. pledged in 2000, as a part of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGS) that they will try to reduce the maternal mortality rate by 75 percent by 2015. The members also adopted a new goal of lowering the death rate worldwide to less than 70 per 100,000 love births. The goal, which is a part of the Sustainable Development Goals, was announced this past September.

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