Saving mothers before, during, and after childbirth
Life-saving innovative approaches addressing maternal mortality globally
According to recent research, a woman dies every two minutes due to pregnancy or childbirth. The UN report Trends in maternal mortality 2000 to 2020 warns that the lives of a million women are at risk if significant progress towards reducing maternal deaths is not achieved by 2030.
The report estimates that 287,000 mothers died in 2020 alone – 800 a day, or one every two minutes. Almost every one of these deaths was preventable. UNICEF and its partners remain committed to discovering, co-creating and scaling life-saving solutions to help improve maternal health.
Social and digital innovations for pregnant girls
Adolescent pregnancy is the leading cause of mortality in girls aged 15 to 19, and their babies face greater risks from low birth weight, preterm birth and severe neonatal conditions.
Pregnant girls and parenting adolescents often struggle to access critical information on maternal health care before, during, and after childbirth that could help reverse these statistics.
Free, digital peer counselling on sexual health and rights
Through SMS BIZ, adolescent boys and girls can send questions via their mobile phones and receive real-time SMS responses from youth peer counsellors on sexual and reproductive health and rights, HIV, violence prevention and pregnancy-related issues and queries.
Over 350,000 adolescents have already used the platform. Piloted in Mozambique, this innovation will be scaled to three more countries in the Eastern and Southern Africa region in 2023.
Better, smarter pregnancy tests
Women who receive prenatal care from the beginning of pregnancy until the onset of labour have the best chance to ensure they stay healthy throughout their pregnancy and give birth to a healthy baby.
The innovative pregnancy tests jointly developed by the Rhodes University Biotechnology Innovation Centre (RUBIC) and UNICEF use nucleic acid strands (RNA/DNA) instead of the traditional antibodies, which considerably lowers their cost while conserving their accuracy and increases their stability across a wider range of temperatures and humidity.
Life-saving innovative products
Severe bleeding after childbirth is the leading direct cause of maternal mortality worldwide. Life-saving interventions are often inaccessible in many countries. UNICEF’s Product Innovation Centre provides low-cost, easily accessible devices to prevent and treat post-partum haemorrhage (PPH).
The non-pneumatic anti-shock garment (NASG) is a life-saving compressive suit inspired by NASA technology that reduces excessive bleeding after childbirth by squeezing the limbs to push blood to the head, buying critical time (from 30 minutes to 48 hours) to transfer the patient to the nearest health facility for life-saving care. So far, over 4000 units have been delivered to 14 countries around the world.
The Uterine Balloon Tamponade (UBT) is a balloon-like device that compresses blood vessels to stop bleeding and stabilise a woman suffering from PPH, reducing the need for surgical interventions and blood transfusions.
Innovative products and approaches are a critical part of a system-wide approach to addressing maternal mortality. UNICEF, together with communities and families, will continue to consolidate efforts to accelerate transformational solutions for every mother and child to thrive.
To learn more about UNICEF Office of Innovation's portfolio management approach and its Maternal, Child & Newborn Health portfolio, click here.
To learn more about Product Innovation at UNICEF, click here.