Maternal health

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maternal-healthMaternal health refers to the health of women during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period. The major causes of maternal morbidity and mortality include haemorrhage, infection, high blood pressure, unsafe abortion, and obstructed labour.

Achievement of sexual and reproductive health is also a human rights issue. Failure to improve sexual and reproductive health has adverse effects as it also relates to numerous health outcomes such as infant and child mortality rates and HIV prevention and care.

The African Region has large intraregional disparities in terms of coverage of basic maternal health interventions like antenatal care. While Southern Africa reported almost universal coverage in 2010, in West Africa about one third of pregnant women did not receive antenatal care visits.

Very early childbearing brings with it heightened health risks for mothers and their infants. Early childbearing is also linked to outcomes such as lower educational attainment and poverty. The African Region continues to have the highest birth rate among adolescents with approximately 120 births per 1000 adolescent women.

Increased access to safe, affordable and effective methods of contraception has provided individuals with greater choices and opportunities for responsible decision-making in reproductive matters.

Increased funding in maternal health services is key to achieving the 2015 Millennium Development Goals.

Fact sheet: maternal mortality

Infographic: Saving mother's lives: maternal mortality 1990-2013