Maternal and newborn health: Where we stand

Introduction

© UNICEF/NYHQ2005-2185/Pirozzi

Pregnancy and childbirth are usually times of joy and celebration for parents and families. But, sadly, these moments are also times of great risk to the health and survival of mothers and newborns in many countries and communities around the world. Each day, about 1,500 women die from problems related to pregnancy and childbirth.

There is a great difference in maternal mortality rates between rich countries and poor regions, particularly the poorest and least developed countries. There are far more chances that a woman from a poor country may die due to problems related to pregnancy or childbirth than a woman living in a rich and industrialized country. Moreover, millions of women who do survive childbirth may still suffer from pregnancy-related injuries, infections, diseases and disabilities, often with lifelong consequences.

Newborn babies are most vulnerable during the first 28 days of life. This is also known as the neonatal period. Almost 40 percent of deaths of children under the age of five take place during this time. There is also a big difference in neonatal mortality between rich and poor countries. A child born in a poor country is almost 14 times more likely to die during the first 28 days of life than a child born in a rich and industrialized country.

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