Maternal Deaths Decline Worldwide : Shots - Health News Key factors behind the improvement seen in many countries are a decline in birth rates, higher educational status of women, higher incomes and better care at the time of delivery.
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Maternal Deaths Decline Worldwide

Women around the world are dying much less often from complications related to childbirth than they did in 1980, an analysis of health data finds.

Fewer mothers around the world are dying from childbirth istockphoto.com hide caption

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Fewer mothers around the world are dying from childbirth

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Overall, the number of women who died during pregnancy, birth or within 42 days of delivering a child, fell to about 342,900 in 2008 from about 526,300 in 1980, according to estimates by researchers funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Since 1990, maternal deaths around the world have fallen by 1.3 percent each year.

Some of the factors behind the improvement seen in many countries are a decline in birth rates, higher educational status of women, higher incomes and better care at the time of delivery. The findings were published online by the medical journal the Lancet.

The best of the birth bunch is Italy, with just four maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 2008. The worst? Afghanistan, where there the maternal death rate is 1,575 deaths per 100,000 births. (See a spreadsheet with the country rankings here.)

Many developing countries have made big strides, including Egypt and Turkmenistan, but a lot of work remains. Just 23 developing countries appear to be capable of reducing their maternal death rates by 75 percent between 1990 and 2015.

When it comes to sheer numbers of deaths, a half-dozen countries -- India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo -- are the ones to watch. They accounted for half the maternal deaths worldwide in 2008.

The analysis also finds some intriguing increases in deaths in countries where you might not expect that to be happening: Canada, Norway and the U.S.

The researchers suggest that the rise might be due to more thorough reporting of problems made possible by changes in the codes used on death certificates. A specific question about pregnancy status added to U.S. death certificates may also be part of the reason. For more on those changes, see this report from the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control.