Every day in 2008, about 1000 women died due to complications of pregnancy and child birth, including severe bleeding after childbirth, infections, hypertensive disorders, and unsafe abortions. Out of the 1000, 560 deaths occurred in sub-Saharan Africa and 300 in South Asia, compared to five in high-income countries. The risk of a woman in a developing country dying from a pregnancy-related cause during her lifetime is about 36 times higher compared to a woman living in a developed country. Maternal mortality is a health indicator that shows very wide gaps between rich and poor, both between countries and within them.
The number of women dying due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth has decreased by 34% from an estimated 546 000 in 1990 to 358 000 in 2008. The progress is notable, but the annual rate of decline is less than half of what is needed to achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of reducing the maternal mortality ratio by 75% between 1990 and 2015. This will require an annual decline of 5.5%. The 34% decline since 1990 translates into an average annual decline of just 2.3%.