Maternal mortality – Fact Sheet
MSD for Mothers



Global statistics1

• Every day, approximately 830 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.

• 99% of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries.

• Maternal mortality is higher in women living in rural areas and among poorer communities.

• Young adolescents face a higher risk of complications and death as a result of pregnancy than other women.

• Skilled care before, during and after childbirth can save the lives of women and new-born babies.

• Between 1990 and 2015, maternal mortality worldwide dropped by about 44%.

• Between 2016 and 2030, as part of the Sustainable Development Goals, the target is to reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100 000 live births.


The South African scenario

• Between 2009 and 2016, institutional maternal death ratios decreased from 189 per 100 000 live births to 134 per 100 000 – a 29% reduction.2

• In 2015, almost all the world’s maternal deaths occurred in developing countries, a 2016 report by the WHO and other partners found. Sub-Saharan Africa alone accounted for more than half of the deaths.1

• In 2015, one out of every three maternal deaths in South Africa was because of HIV. Maternal deaths for HIV-positive women is mostly caused by non-pregnancy-related infections, such as tuberculosis, pneumonia and meningitis, that people with HIV, and who are not on treatment, are more likely to develop.3

• Obstetric haemorrhage (bleeding during pregnancy, labour or the postpartum period) and pregnancy-related sepsis caused by miscarriages or post-birth complications, also contributes to women dying.3

• Maternal deaths caused by bleeding started to decline between 2015 and 2016, after health workers were trained in the management of obstetric emergencies.3

• One of the challenges in South Africa is that it has a high number of children between 10 and 14 and adolescents between 15 and 19 giving birth. Research has shown that, because children and teenagers’ bodies are not yet fully developed, they are more likely to experience birth-related complications.3  


MSD for Mothers 4,5

• MSD for Mothers is Merck’s 10-year, $500 million global initiative to create a world where no woman dies giving life.4

• MSD for Mothers is working to ensure that women have access to two powerful means to end preventable maternal deaths: quality maternity care and modern contraception.4 It is estimated that meeting women’s needs in these two areas would reduce maternal deaths by 73% from 2017 levels.5

• Over the past six years, MSD for Mothers has reached more than 6 million women in over 30 countries around the world, contributing to the global effort to save women’s lives, strengthen health systems and meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.6

• MSD for Mothers works across sectors, with governments, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), patient groups, physician, nursing and midwife associations, entrepreneurs, UN agencies, research institutions, other businesses and even other pharmaceutical companies. • Working alongside more than 100 partners MSD for Mothers has improved access to quality maternal care and family planning services for more than 6 million women around the world.6


  1. World Health Organisation. Internet. Maternal mortality. Feb 16, 2018. Available from
  2. Saving Mothers 2014 – 2016.
  3. Bhekisisa. Giving birth has become less dangerous in South Africa. Mar 28, 2018. Available from:
  4. MSD for Mothers Global Giving. Available from:
  5. UN Foundation 7 Facts about Maternal Health.
  6. MSD for Mothers.