By Rachel Ward, Managing Director, Research Unit
News coverage of the study published in The Lancet about declining maternal deaths worldwide largely ignored the appalling fact that the United States has shown no improvement in the rate of maternal deaths for two decades.
Progress in reducing maternal deaths around the world should be applauded.
Yet even if we accept the study’s conclusion that there has been some progress on reversing maternal deaths worldwide, this should not lead us to the wrong conclusion — that the problem is solved.
Far from it.
Women are still dying worldwide at an appalling rate — a woman dies every minute and a half worldwide, according to the figures published in The Lancet.
Most of these deaths, we know, can be prevented. This study should strengthen our resolve to develop strategies to expand upon the progress so that the right to safe childbirth is protected for all women everywhere.
In the United States, the Lancet study shows that maternal deaths are on the rise. The recent Amnesty International study we co-authored, Deadly Delivery: The Maternal Health Care Crisis in the USA, shows that the maternal death rate has shown no improvement in the United States in more than two decades, and in fact, the death rate is going up. This is a disgrace. And the rate is climbing, despite the fact that hospitalization related to pregnancy and childbirth costs some $86 billion a year — the highest hospitalization costs of any area of medicine.