Almost 300,000 people died during pregnancy or childbirth in 2020 with one woman dies every two minutes due to child birthor complications experienced during pregnancy.
"Pregnancy is tragically still a shockingly dangerous experience for millions around the world," said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO).
The UN report there had been a small decrease between the years 2000 and 2015, but that since 2016 the global maternal mortality rate has stagnated. And that is unacceptable, said Jenny Cresswell, a scientist at the WHO and co-author of the report.
"Stagnation is absolutely not good enough," Cresswell told DW. "The Sustainable Development Goal [SDG] target is to reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births by 2030. We are currently far off-track to meet this target."
In some countries, including developed ones like the US, the maternal mortality rate has been rising for years. At more than 23, the US has by far the highest MMR of all industrialized countries. (The Indian state of Kerala's MMR is 19, a lower MMR than that in the United States.)
The rate increased by roughly 78% between 2000 and 2020. There is the fact that many Americans do not have health insurance and can not afford to visit their doctor. The cost of health services has gone up as well. And there is a shortage of midwives who can help people through their pregnancies.
"The rate at which people in the US skip [medical] care is dramatically higher compared to other developed countries," explained Munira Gunja, a senior researcher with the Commonwealth Fund, a foundation that supports independent research on health care issues in the US.. It all comes together to contribute to "this unacceptable maternal mortality rate," Gunja said.
But that is not all. The MMR among Black Americans is about three times higher than among white Americans. That stark difference is due to "structural racism," Gunja said. "[Black Americans] are at a disadvantage from the start: Where they live, their education level, their jobs and salary. And when they see a doctor, they are often faced with direct racism."