September 16, 2019

Improving Maternal Health


Topic: Improving Maternal Health

Maternal health is classified by the World Health Organization as the health of women during pregnancy, childbirth and the postnatal period. Improving maternal health has been a long-standing goal of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (“CSW”), which has coordinated related efforts across multiple UN committees. Evidence of this effort can be seen in the CSW’s 2011 session on the elimination of preventable maternal mortality and morbidity and the empowerment of women. Maternal health is also a tenet of the United Nations Development Program’s 2015 sustainable development goals, which specifically target reducing the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births by 2030. In spite of these efforts by the UN, maternal health is still a pressing issue. More than 800 women die every day from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth, and for each women who dies, approximately 20 others will suffer serious injuries, infections or disabilities.

The most common, direct causes of maternal injury and death are excessive blood loss, infection, high blood pressure, unsafe abortion, and obstructed labor. Indirect causes of injury and death include anemia, malaria, and heart disease. Tragically, most maternal deaths are preventable with access to quality healthcare. This is demonstrated by the fact that the maternal mortality rate is disproportionately high in developing nations where access to healthcare is limited. 94% of all maternal deaths occur in low and lower middle-income countries, and the proportion of mothers who do not survive childbirth compared to those who do is 14 times higher in developing areas. However, ensuring that women survive pregnancy and childbirth is just the beginning. Women need support throughout their pregnancy and after to reduce maternal injury and disability, and to promote their health and well-being.

There are a variety of ways in which this committee can undertake the issue of maternal health. It can be addressed at the healthcare provider level by ensuring that health systems worldwide have resources to support maternal health. It can be addressed by developing or expanding existing programs and initiatives designed to raise awareness about maternal health. It can also be addressed at a more foundational level by tackling the societal inequalities that give rise to higher rates of maternal mortality in developing nations. Likely, a multifaceted approach will be required given that the challenges to maternal health differ across the global.

Useful Links:

CSW Resolution 54/5, Eliminating Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Through the Empowerment of Women (see page 25 of the PDF):

World Health Organization Overview of Maternal Health:

CSW discussion of Sustainable Development Goal #3:

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