In the developing world, the largest cause of mothers dying from pregnancy complications is severe bleeding. One in four deaths result from hemorrhaging. Other causes include infection (15%) and high blood pressure in pregnancy (12%). Most of these causes are preventable.

One in four women who die during childbirth simply bleed to death. A medicine, oxytocin, costing less than 99 cents a vial, could prevent that.

According to the World Health Organization, nearly 75% of all maternal deaths are caused by:

  • severe bleeding (mostly bleeding after childbirth)
  • infections (usually after childbirth)
  • high blood pressure during pregnancy (pre-eclampsia and eclampsia)
  • complications from delivery
  • unsafe abortion

Other factors that prevent women from receiving or seeking care during pregnancy and childbirth are:

  • poverty
  • distance
  • lack of information
  • inadequate services
  • cultural practices

The Need for Skilled Attendants

At the heart of the issue is that about half of all women in developing countries don’t have a skilled birth attendant at their delivery. A skilled birth attendant, whether it is a doctor, nurse or midwife, can manage normal deliveries and identify the onset of complications. Due to distance, poverty and other social barriers, many women still give birth with untrained birth attendants, a family member or even on their own. The shortages of skilled birth attendants in low income countries and lack of emergency obstetric care adds to the problem.

Percentage of Deliveries with a Skilled Attendant
World Health Organization, 2012

  • Global average: 68%
  • Africa: less than 50%
  • North America: 99.5%