Globally, approximately 255,000 maternal deaths and 3 million neonatal deaths occur each year. The global stillbirth rate is 2.6 million annually. The majority of these deaths occur in low-resource settings, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

The leading causes of maternal deaths include postpartum hemorrhage, infections, and hypertensive diseases of pregnancy. Postpartum hemorrhage, stemming from atonic uterus, retained placenta, ruptured uterus, and cervical laceration, accounts for approximately two-thirds of hemorrhage related deaths. Hypertensive diseases of pregnancy, namely preeclampsia and eclampsia, contribute to 10% of maternal deaths. Complications of eclampsia lead to maternal deaths from cardiac failure and cerebral vascular accidents.

The leading causes of neonatal mortality are complications of prematurity, sepsis, birth asphyxia, and tetanus. Respiratory distress syndrome is a major cause of death among preterm infants. Stillbirths are caused by syphilis and malaria, as well as maternal death related conditions. Increased access to skilled care, diagnostics, and treatment will improve the pregnancy and birth outcomes for mothers and babies.


World Health Organization. (2014). Trends in maternal mortality: 1990-2013.

Countdown Report to 2015. 2012.

Liu, L, Johnson, HL, Cousens, S, Perin, J, Scott, S, Lawn JE, Rudan, I, Campbell , H, Cibulskis, R, Li, M, Mathers, C, Black, RE, for the Child Health Epidemiology Reference Group of WHO and UNICEF. (2012). Global, regional, and national causes of child mortality: an updated systematic analysis for 2010 with time trends since 2000. The Lancet, 379 (9832): 2151-2161.: