Nearly 350,000 women die annually worldwide from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. More than 99 percent of these deaths occur in developing countries, where skilled healthcare providers, quality facilities, and adequate transportation and communication systems are largely unavailable to the poor. At least one quarter of these maternal deaths are due to postpartum hemorrhage, but that figure nears 60 percent in the developing world.
The great majority of maternal deaths are preventable, if women have access to skilled providers in well-equipped facilities. Unfortunately, poverty, isolation, and lack of knowledge and access to a skilled provider or an equipped facility continue to pose serious barriers in many countries. While quality care must be made available, an equal challenge lies in transforming long-held traditions and entrenched misconceptions that hinder the adoption of healthy behaviors.