Decline in maternal mortality rates in India since 1990

Elaine Watkins —  May 8, 2014

United Nations
: India has recorded a decline in maternal mortality rates between 1990 and 2013 but along with Nigeria it accounted for one third of the global maternal deaths last year, according to a UN report.

An estimated 289,000 women died in 2013 from complications in pregnancy and childbirth, down from 523,000 in 1990, according to World Health Organisation’s trends in maternal mortality estimates from 1990 to 2013. The figure represents a decrease of 45 per cent.

The sub-Saharan Africa region alone accounted for 62 per cent (179,000) of global deaths followed by Southern Asia at 24 per cent (69,000). At the country level, the two countries that accounted for one third of all global maternal deaths in 2013 are India at 17 per cent with 50 thousand maternal deaths and Nigeria at 14 per cent with 40 thousand deaths.

India was among the 10 countries that comprised 58 per cent of the global maternal deaths reported in 2013. The other nine nations are Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Tanzania, Kenya, China and Uganda. The report said India has been “making progress” since its maternal mortality rate fell from 560 in 1990 to 190 in 2013, a 65 per cent drop.

Rates of maternal deaths are down, according to the UN figures but pre-existing medical conditions heighten the risk of death for pregnant women and require continued investment in quality care during pregnancy and childbirth.

Among its findings, the report shows 11 countries that had high levels of maternal mortality in 1990 have reached the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of a 75 per cent reduction. These include Bhutan, Cambodia, Cabo Verde, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Maldives, Nepal, Romania,Rwanda, and Timor-Leste.

“A 15-year-old girl living in sub-Saharan Africa faces about 1 in 40 risk of dying during pregnancy and childbirth during her lifetime,” said Geeta Rao Gupta, Deputy

Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). “A girl of the same age living in Europe has a lifetime risk of 1 in 3300, underscoring how uneven progress has been around the world,” she said.

Meanwhile, more than one in four maternal deaths are caused by pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, HIV, malaria and obesity, whose health impacts can be aggravated by pregnancy, according to a second WHO study.

“The report highlights the need to invest in proven solutions such as quality care for all women during pregnancy and childbirth and particular care for pregnant women with existing medical conditions,” Flavia Bustreo, assistant director-general for WHO’s Family, Women’s and Children’s Health, said.


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