Rights-Based Maternal Health


Around the world, women and girls continue to have a high risk of illness, injury, and death during pregnancy or childbirth. Despite numerous commitments to address issues that fuel this risk, health systems often do not prioritize maternal health and violations of women’s rights are common.

Globally, 800 women die every day due to largely preventable complications during pregnancy and childbirth – which amounted to an estimated 289,000 maternal deaths in 2010.  Approximately 47,000 maternal deaths worldwide are due to unsafe abortion.  Additionally, for every woman who dies in childbirth, about 20 more suffer injury, infection, or disease – about 10 million women each year. Almost all (99 percent) of the world’s maternal deaths and injuries occur in developing countries.

Women and girls must have access to comprehensive maternal health care that includes: family planning; essential medicines; skilled, rights-based, and respectful maternity care; HIV prevention and treatment; and, safe voluntary abortion services.

Young women and girls are at heightened risk of complications and death during pregnancy and childbirth. These complications are the leading cause of death among girls 15-19 in low- and middle-income countries. Child marriage and taboos on adolescent sexuality contribute to teen pregnancies by denying girls the power, information, and tools to postpone childbearing.

A Call to Action on Zika Image

A Call to Action on Zika

It is time for governments and donors to take bold action to address the Zika crisis and the challenges it produces, especially for women and girls.

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Call on the UN to recognize the International Day for Maternal Health and Rights Image

Call on the UN to recognize the International Day for Maternal Health and Rights

Sign the petition calling on UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to officially recognize April 11 as the International Day for Maternal Health and Rights.

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#IntlMHDay Twitter Chat Image

#IntlMHDay Twitter Chat

On April 11, advocates issued a global call to action to establish an International Day for Maternal Health and Rights (#IntlMHDay) and gain worldwide support for respectful maternity care! Read a recap of the conversation.

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Call to Action for an International Day for Maternal Health and Rights Image

Call to Action for an International Day for Maternal Health and Rights

Calling on governments, international institutions, and the global community of civil society organizations to celebrate and recognize April 11 as the International Day for Maternal Health and Rights.

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Source800Every day 800 women die from complications during pregnancy and childbirth.

Source16 millionEach year, about 16 million girls ages 15-19 give birth. Pregnancy and childbirth is the leading cause of death among this age group.

Source24%In sub-Saharan Africa, an estimated 24% of deaths in pregnant or postpartum women are attributable to HIV.

Source225 millionGlobally, 225 million women who wish to delay or avoid pregnancy have an unmet need for contraception.

Source99%99% of maternal deaths occur in developing countries.

Source90%90% of the complications that lead to maternal death can be avoided when women have access to quality prevention, diagnostic, and treatment services.

Statement to the International Conference on Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health

H.e. Dr. Nkosazana C. Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission addresses attendees at the International Conference On Maternal, Newborn and Child Health in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Posted on August 5, 2013

South Africa’s Maternal Mortality Rate Almost Doubles

South Africa is an upper middle-income country that is achieving low-income country success when it comes to maternal health. With the UN's release of the 2013 Millennium Development Goals Annual Report, greater attention is being drawn to countries in which progress has fallen far short of expectations.

Posted on July 9, 2013

Working to Save Malawi’s Mothers

In Malawi, the lifetime risk of a woman dying in pregnancy or childbirth is one in 36, compared to one in 4,600 in the United Kingdom, according to the Malawi Safe Motherhood Programme, an initiative to reduce maternal mortality in this southern African nation.

Posted on July 3, 2013

Increased Fighting Takes Toll on Health Care in Afghanistan

It is close to midday and a group of patients wait outside the Mirwais regional hospital in southern Afghanistan’s Kandahar city. “There are no health clinics in our district so I have to come this long way for treatment. I have not met the doctor yet and have been waiting to see him for a long time,” one man, who had been waiting since sunrise and had driven four hours from neighbouring Helmand Province, told IRIN.

Posted on July 1, 2013

Infrastructure Investment ‘Vital’ to Combat Malawi’s Maternal Mortalities

President of Malawi Dr Joyce Banda has announced that infrastructure investment in the health sector will be vital to reduce the country's maternal mortality rate.

Posted on June 27, 2013

Space-age Technology to Reduce Maternal Death

Space-age technology, neoprene (the same material used for wet suits) and Velcro have gone into an experimental garment health experts hope can treat postpartum haemorrhage, the leading cause of maternal mortality worldwide.

Posted on June 21, 2013

Child Marriage Rates Associated with Maternal Mortality

Countries in which girls are commonly married before the age of 18 have significantly higher rates of maternal and infant mortality, report researchers in the current online issue of the journal Violence Against Women.

Posted on June 20, 2013

Philippines contraception law signed by Benigno Aquino

Philippines President Benigno Aquino has signed into law a bill providing for free access to contraception and family planning.

Posted on December 29, 2012

Impact of Global Gag Rule on Women’s Health and Rights

The Global Gag Rule is a U.S. foreign policy that – when enacted – prohibits foreign non-governmental organizations that receive U.S. family planning funds from advocating for abortion or providing abortion as a method of family planning. It does not prohibit activities around abortion in the cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment. However, it is unclear as to whether or not services are actually provided under the three exceptions.

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File Under: U.S. Policy, Fact Sheets

Report Summary: The Right To Safe Motherhood

This report examines the causes of maternal death and disability, the obstacles to accessing proper care, the structures that keep women from exercising their rights, the global response, and the policy issues and challenges.

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The Right To Safe Motherhood

Opportunities and Challenges for Advancing Global Maternal Health in U.S. Foreign Assistance

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Rights-Based, Integrated Maternal Health

Integration of maternal health care with family planning and HIV services helps ensure the highest attainable standard of sexual and reproductive health for women and girls. Women and girls should have access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services that includes family planning, essential medicines, skilled and respectful maternity care, and HIV prevention and treatment.

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What Does Family Planning Have to do With HIV? Everything.

Voluntary family planning is an indispensible component of HIV prevention and treatment.

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Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Ethiopia

On July 5-9, 2010, three U.S. state legislators traveled to Ethiopia to better understand the role of U.S. foreign assistance aimed at improving the quality of reproductive health care. This report documents that trip and makes recommendations for improving effectiveness of U.S. foreign assistance to advance the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls in Ethiopia.

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Fact Sheet: U.S. Global HEALTH Act of 2010

The U.S. Global HEALTH Act of 2010 (H.R. 4933) establishes a strategy to coordinate health-related U.S. foreign assistance and to assist developing countries in strengthening their indigenous health workforces and improving delivery of health services.

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The Case for Comprehensive: Dominican Republic

Rising HIV prevalence for young women and high rates of teen pregnancy are strong indicators of the gaps in the Dominican Republic’s sexual and reproductive health care. Moreover, despite the fact that almost all births are attended by skilled providers, maternal mortality is alarmingly high.

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File Under: Country Profiles

Rights-Based Maternal Health Topics

Integrating Maternal Health within Sexual and Reproductive Health Services

Linking maternal health care with family planning and HIV services helps to ensure that women, girls, and their families receive the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health.

Comprehensive Rights-Based Maternity Care

Woman-centered maternity care must prioritize women and girls’ basic human rights.

Infographic: Women at the Center

Rights-based maternity care and its link to HIV and family planning.

International Day for Maternal Health and Rights

Join the global community in celebrating every woman's right to dignity, respect, and skilled maternal health care.