• Home
  • Data collection
  • Data analysis
  • Data dissemination
  • Statistics by area
  • Statistical tables
  • Statistics by country
  • Publications
Last update: Jun 2012

World Fit For Children Goal Millenium Development Goal
Ensure that women have ready and affordable access to skilled attendance at delivery Target: Reduce by three quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality ratio

New UN inter-agency estimates released

Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2010 [Eng]

The Maternal Mortality Estimation Inter-agency Group (MMEIG) composed of the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the United Nations Population Fund and the World Bank, together with independent technical experts, has released a new set of global UN inter-agency maternal mortality estimates that includes country and regional data for 2010 as well as for 1990, 1995, 2000 and 2005.

A global overview of maternal mortality

Improving maternal health is one of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) adopted at the 2000 Millennium Summit. A key target is to reduce the maternal mortality ratio (MMR) by three-quarters between 1990 and 2015. According to the newly released UN Interagency maternal mortality estimates, the global maternal mortality ratio has almost halved during the last two decades, from 400 in 1990 to 210 in 2010. Similarly, from 1990 to 2010 the number of maternal deaths dropped from 543,000 to 287,000 – a decline of 47%  Although there was significant progress in all developing regions, the average annual percentage decline in the global MMR was 3.1%, short of the MDG target of 5.5%. Thus, while there is progress to celebrate, efforts to save lives must be accelerated.


Substantial geographic disparities in maternal mortality
Maternal mortality ratio, 2010




















Note: The boundaries and names shown and the designations used on this map do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the WHO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. Dotted lines and dashed lines on maps represent approximate border lines for which there may not yet be full agreement.

Source: Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2010, WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA and the World Bank.


Declines in maternal mortality ratio across all developing regions
Trend in maternal mortality, by UNICEF regions, 1990-2010


Source: Trends in Maternal Mortality 1990-2010. WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA and The World Bank.


Despite the progress, an estimated 287,000 maternal deaths occurred worldwide in 2010. This means that each day about 800 women die worldwide because of complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. Developing countries account for 99 per cent of the deaths. Two regions, Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, accounted for 85 per cent of global maternal deaths. Sub-Saharan Africa suffers from the highest MMR at 500 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births (an estimated 162,000 maternal deaths), followed by South Asia, with an MMR of 220 (83,000 maternal deaths). In stark contrast, the MMR in industrialized countries is 12. In addition to substantial regional disparities, MMRs vary greatly across countries.

MME Info


Brochure: [Eng] [Fr] [Sp]

The Maternal Mortality Estimation Inter-agency Group (MMEIG), comprised of WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA and The World Bank, is proud to announce the launch of MME Info, a new data visualization portal designed to facilitate better understanding of the UN inter-agency maternal mortality estimates and enhance communication between the MMEIG and stakeholders.

Causes of maternal death

Haemorrhage remains the leading cause of maternal mortality, accounting for approximately one third of deaths. Hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, especially eclampsia,  as well as sepsis, embolism and complications of unsafe abortion claim further lives.


The complications leading to a maternal death can occur without warning at any time during pregnancy and childbirth. And for every woman who dies, approximately 20 more suffer injuries, infection and disabilities. Most maternal deaths can be prevented if births are attended by skilled health personnel  – doctors, nurses and midwives – who are regularly supervised, have the proper equipment and supplies, and can refer women in a timely manner to emergency obstetric care services when complications are diagnosed. Complications require prompt access to quality obstetric services equipped to provide lifesaving drugs, antibiotics and transfusions and to perform Caesarean sections and other surgical interventions.


Haemorrage is the leading cause of maternal death
Global estimates of the causes of maternal deaths, 1997-2007


Source: WHO 2010. *Nearly all (99%) abortion deaths are due to unsafe abortion. **This category includes deaths due to obstructed labor or anaemia.


Lifetime risk of maternal death

Lifetime risk is the probability that a woman will die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth over her lifetime; it takes into account both the maternal mortality ratio and the total fertility rate (probable number of births per woman during her reproductive years). Thus in a high-fertility setting a woman faces the risk of maternal death multiple times, and her lifetime risk of death will be higher than in a low-fertility setting. The lifetime risk of maternal death in the developing world in 2010 as a whole was 1 in 150, compared with industrialized regions with an estimated 1 in 4,700. Among the regions, women in sub-Saharan Africa face the highest lifetime risk –  1 in 39 – followed by South Asia – 1 in 150.


Lifetime risk of maternal death remains high in sub-Saharan Africa
Adult lifetime risk of maternal death, 2010


Source: Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2010, WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA and the World Bank.



Wilmoth, J. et al., ‘Maternal deaths drop by one-third from 1990 to 2008: A United Nations analysis’, Bulletin of the World Health Organization, article 1D: BLT.10.082446, 2010.


WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA and the World Bank,  Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2010, WHO, Geneva, 2012.


UNICEF, Progress for Children: Achieving the MDGs with equity, Report No. 9, UNICEF, New York, 2011.


UNICEF, Progress for Children: A report card on maternal mortality, Report No. 7, UNICEF, New York, 2008.


Khan, Khalid S. et al., ‘WHO Analysis of Causes of Maternal Death: A systematic review’, The Lancet, vol. 367, no. 9516, 1 April 2006, pp. 1066-1074.


AbouZahr, C. and T. Wardlaw, ‘Maternal Mortality at the End of the Decade: What signs of progress?’, Bulletin of the World Health Organization, vol. 79, no. 6, 2001, pp. 561-573.


UNICEF, WHO and UNFPA, Guidelines for Monitoring the Availability and Use of Obstetric Services, UNICEF, New York, 1997.


WHO and UNICEF, The Sisterhood Method for Estimating Maternal Mortality: Guidance notes for potential users, WHO, Geneva 1997.