HEALTHY LIVING

Maternal Death Rates Are Decreasing Everywhere But The U.S.

05/28/2015 04:24 pm ET | Updated May 29, 2015
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The United Nations reported last year that it would not meet its goal to decrease the number of women who die in childbirth by 75 percent by 2015, a Millennium Development goal that was agreed upon and set by UN members way back in 1990.

While improvements to maternal health have certainly been made -- The Guardian reports the maternal mortality rate decreased by 45 percent between 1990 and 2013 -- the fact remains that 289,000 women die during pregnancy or in or soon after childbirth every year. In other words, that's one woman every two minutes, according to the World Health Organization.

Even more disheartening is the World Banks' report that of the eight Millennium Development Goals set in 1990, the maternal health push has made the least amount of progress.

While 99 percent of such maternal deaths occur in developing countries, the United States is the only country in the world in which maternal deaths increased between 1990 and 2013. In 2013, 28 women were dying for every 100,00 births, compared to 12 women for every 100,000 births in 1990.

"There is sadly no magic bullet that explains what is behind the high levels of maternal mortality in the United States," Rachel Ward, managing director of research at Amnesty International U.S., previously told Al Jazeera. "It's a combination of factors that speak to the systemic problems of failing to provide affordable, accessible, quality health services to all women in the United States."

It's of note that the WHO recommends that Cesarean section deliveries -- which carry a higher risk of maternal death than planned vaginal delivery -- should only make up between 5 and 15 percent of births. In the U.S., the number of women receiving c-sections hit 32.8 percent in 2012, more than double the WHO's recommended level. The countries that made the biggest reductions in maternal death rates were also the countries that increased the number of birthing facilities with the help of educated, licensed and supported midwives, according to a report published in the medical journal The Lancet.

While the UN's 2015 goal won't be met, the U.S. Department of Health has set its own goal: reaching a maternal mortality ration of no more than 11.4 deaths per 100,000 births by 2020. With the aim of furthering prevention, the Georgetown University School of Nursing and Health Studies just released the infographic below, chock full of information. Check it out:

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  • Back then: "Got Milk?" was the health food campaign plastered in every magazine
  • Today: 2015's health food darling, the avocado, scores a Super Bowl commerical
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