Back to the Future on Maternal Deaths?


Jane Maughan, the woman who died after giving birth, was my great-great-grandmother. The diary entry above was written by her mother-in-law, who also noted that the baby died just a month later. They were pioneers living in a rural western state in the U.S. in 1892.

The depth of the family’s loss and sorrow is palpable, but the year of the death is reassuring to most of us: ‘That is how childbirth used to be,’ we may tell ourselves, ‘but not anymore.’

Yet just last year, in 2015, it is estimated that more than 800 women died worldwideevery day from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, often in scenarios not unlike my great-great-grandmother’s death more than a century ago: at home without a skilled birth attendant, and without modern prenatal care.

While it’s important to note that there has been some very real progress since maternal health was identified in 2000 as one of the Millennial (and now) Sustainable Development Goals, the progress has been uneven.

The vast majority of deaths still occurring are in parts of the developing world, and completely preventable. How?


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