Fact Sheet

  • Each day, about 1,500 women die from problems related to pregnancy and childbirth.
  • 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.
  • The continents of Africa and Asia together account for 95 per cent of maternal deaths and around 90 per cent of newborn deaths.
  • Research has shown that around 80 per cent of maternal deaths could be avoided if women had access to essential maternity and basic health-care services.
  • In many poor countries, only 54 per cent of births take place in clinics or hospitals. And in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa – the regions that suffers from the most maternal and neonatal mortality – more than 60 per cent of women give birth at home.
  • Severe infections, which are often brought about by unhygienic delivery practices and unsafe water and poor sanitation, accounted for 36 per cent of neonatal deaths in 2000.
  • Promoting hygienic delivery practices and immunization has contributed to a significant reduction in the incidence of maternal and neonatal tetanus since 1980.
  • UNICEF and WHO recommend at least four antenatal visits. These visits allow women to receive the care they need, like tetanus immunization, screening and treatment for infections, and important information on problems that may occur during pregnancy and delivery.
  • Complications from pregnancy and childbirth are an important cause of mortality for girls aged 15–19 worldwide.
  • Girls who give birth before the age of 15 are five times more likely to die in childbirth than women in their twenties.
  • Female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) is a violation of the rights of women and girls and a form of violence that is estimated to have been undergone by around 70 million girls and women aged 15–49 in 27 countries of Africa and the Middle East.