|Classification and external resources|
According to the United Nations Maternal Mortality Estimation Inter-agency Group, which consists of representatives from the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Emergency Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Population Division, the World Bank and world renowned academicians maternal death is:
"The death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the duration and the site of the pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management, but not from accidental or incidental causes." 
Factors that increase maternal death can be direct or indirect. Generally, there is a distinction between a direct maternal death that is the result of a complication of the pregnancy, delivery, or management of the two, and an indirect maternal death that is a pregnancy-related death in a patient with a preexisting or newly developed health problem unrelated to pregnancy. Fatalities during but unrelated to a pregnancy are termed accidental, incidental, or nonobstetrical maternal deaths.
As stated by the WHO in its 2005 World Health Report "Make Every Mother and Child Count", the major direct causes of maternal deaths are severe bleeding/hemorrhage (25%), infections (13%), unsafe abortions (13%), eclampsia (12%), obstructed labour (8%), other direct causes (8%), and indirect causes (20%). Indirect causes are malaria, anaemia, HIV/AIDS, and cardiovascular disease, all of which may complicate pregnancy or be aggravated by it.
Sociodemographic factors such as age, access to resources and income level are significant indicators of maternal outcomes. Young mothers face higher risks of complications and death during pregnancy than older mothers, especially adolescents aged 15 years or younger. Adolescents have higher risks for postpartum hemorrhage, puerperal endometritis, operative vaginal delivery, episiotomy, low birth weight, preterm delivery, and small-for-gestational-age infants, all of which can lead to maternal death. Structural support and family support influence maternal outcomes. Social disadvantage and social isolation adversely affect maternal health which can lead to increases in maternal death. Furthermore, lack of access to skilled medical care during childbirth, the travel distance to the nearest clinic to receive proper care, number of prior births, barriers to accessing prenatal medical care and poor infrastructure all increase maternal deaths.
Unintended pregnancy is also a major cause of maternal death. Globally, preventable deaths from improperly performed procedures constitute 13% of maternal mortality, and 25% or more in some countries where maternal mortality from other causes is relatively low, making unsafe abortion the leading single cause of maternal mortality worldwide.
Maternal deaths and disabilities are leading contributors in women's disease burden with an estimated 275,000 women killed each year in childbirth and pregnancy worldwide. In 2011, there were approximately 273,500 maternal deaths (uncertainty range, 256,300 to 291,700). Forty-five percent of postpartum deaths occur within 24 hours. Over 90% of maternal deaths occur in developing countries.
Measurement of Maternal Death
The three measures of maternal death are the maternal mortality ratio (MMR), maternal mortality rate, and life time risk of maternal death. The MMR is used as a measure of the quality of a health care system.
Life time risk of maternal death: refers to the probability that a 15-year-old female will die eventually from a maternal cause if she experiences throughout her lifetime the risks of maternal death and the overall levels of fertility and mortality that are observed for a given population. The adult lifetime risk of maternal mortality can be derived using either the maternal mortality ratio(MMR), or the maternal mortality rate(MMRate). 
Globally, high and middle income countries experience lower maternal deaths than low income countries. The Human Development Index (HDI) accounts for between 82 and 85 percent of the maternal mortality rates among countries. In most cases, high rates of maternal deaths occur in the same countries that have high rates of infant mortality. These trends are a reflection that higher income countries have stronger healthcare infrastructure, medical and healthcare personnel, use more advanced medical technologies and have less barriers to accessing care than low income countries. Therefore, in low income countries, the most common cause of maternal death is obstetrical hemorrhage, followed by hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, in contrast to high income countries, for which the most common cause is thromboembolism.
In 2010, countries with highest maternal mortality were Chad (1,100), Somalia (1,000), Central African Republic, (890), Sierra Leone (890) and Burundi (800). Countries with the lowest rates included Estonia at 2 per 100,000 and Singapore at 3 per 100,000.
In the United States, the maternal death rate averaged 9.1 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births during the years 1979-1986, but then rose rapidly to 14 for every 100,000 patients in 2000 to 24 per every 100,000 patients in 2008.
Variation Within Countries
There are significant maternal mortality intracountry variations, especially in nations with large equality gaps in income and education and high healthcare disparities. Women living in rural areas experience higher maternal mortality than women living in urban and suburban centers because  those living in wealthier households, having higher education, or living in urban areas, have higher use of healthcare services than their poorer, less-educated, or rural counterparts. There are also racial and ethnic disparities in maternal health outcomes which increases maternal mortality in marginalized groups.
The death rate for women giving birth plummeted in the 20th century. The historical level of maternal deaths is probably around 1 in 100 births. Mortality rates reached very high levels in maternity institutions in the 1800s, sometimes climbing to 40 percent of birthgiving women (see Historical mortality rates of puerperal fever). At the beginning of the 1900s, maternal death rates were around 1 in 100 for live births. Currently, there are an estimated 275,000 maternal deaths each year. A hugely disproportionate number of maternal deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
Technologies have been designed for resource poor settings that have been effective in reducing maternal deaths as well. The non-pneumatic anti-shock garment is a low-technology pressure device that decreases blood loss, restores vital signs and helps buy time in delay of women receiving adequate emergency care during obstetric hemorrhage. It has proven to be a valuable resource. Condoms used as uterine tamponades have also been effective in stopping post-partum hemorrhage.
Most maternal deaths are avoidable, as the health-care solutions to prevent or manage complications are well known. Improving access to antenatal care in pregnancy, skilled care during childbirth, and care and support in the weeks after childbirth will reduce maternal deaths significantly. It is particularly important that all births be attended by skilled health professionals, as timely management and treatment can make the difference between life and death. To improve maternal health, barriers that limit access to quality maternal health services must be identified and addressed at all levels of the health system. Recommendations for reducing maternal mortality include access to health care, access to family planning services, and emergency obstetric care, funding and intrapartum care. Reduction in unnecessary obstetric surgery has also been suggested.
Proportionally, aid given to improve maternal mortality rates has shrunk as other public health issues, such as HIV/AIDS, have become major international concerns. This can be viewed at . Maternal health aid contributions tend to be lumped together with newborn and child health, so it is difficult to assess how much aid is given directly to maternal health to help lower the rates of maternal mortality. Regardless, there has been progress in reducing maternal mortality rates internationally as can be viewed .
The biggest global policy initiative for maternal health came from the United Nations' Millennium Declaration  which created the Millennium Development Goals. The fifth goal of the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) initiative is to reduce the maternal mortality rate by three quarters between 1990 and 2015 and to achieve universal access to reproductive health by 2015.
Countries and local governments have taken political steps in reducing maternal deaths. Researchers at the Overseas Development Institute studied maternal health systems in four apparently similar countries: Rwanda, Malawi, Niger, and Uganda. In comparison to the other three countries, Rwanda has an excellent recent record of improving maternal death rates. Based on their investigation of these varying country case studies, the researchers conclude that improving maternal health depends on three key factors: 1. reviewing all maternal health-related policies frequently to ensure that they are internally coherent; 2. enforcing standards on providers of maternal health services; 3. any local solutions to problems discovered should be promoted, not discouraged.
- List of famous women who died in childbirth
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- Khlat, M., & Ronsmans, C. (2009). Deaths Attributable to Childbearing in Matlab, Bangladesh: Indirect Causes of Maternal Mortality Questioned. American Journal Of Epidemiology, 151(3), 300-306.
- The commonest causes of anaemia are poor nutrition, iron, and other micronutrient deficiencies, which are in addition to malaria, hookworm, and schistosomiasis (2005 WHO report p45).
- Conde-Agudelo A, Belizan JM, Lammers C. Maternal-perinatal morbidity and mortality associated with adolescent pregnancy in Latin America: Cross-sectional study. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 2004. 192:342–349
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- Fertility Regulation and Reproductive Health in the Millennium Development Goals: The Search for a Perfect Indicator
- Maternal Morbidity and Disability and Their Consequences: Neglected Agenda in Maternal Health Marge Koblinsky, Mahbub Elahi Chowdhury, Allisyn Moran, Carine Ronsmans J Health Popul Nutr. 2012 June; 30(2): 124–130.
- Bhutta, Z. A.; Black, R. E. (2013). "Global Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health — So Near and Yet So Far". New England Journal of Medicine 369 (23): 2226. doi:10.1056/NEJMra1111853.
- Nour NM (2008). "An Introduction to Maternal Mortality". Reviews in Ob Gyn 1: 77–81.
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- Venös tromboembolism (VTE) - Guidelines for treatment in C counties. Bengt Wahlström, Emergency department, Uppsala Academic Hospital. January 2008
- Country Comparison: Maternal Mortality Rate in The CIA World Factbook.
- Centers for Disease Control Maternal Mortality in the United States
- ,[WHO Maternal Health.]
- Wang W, Alva S, Wang S, Fort A. Levels and trends in the use of maternal health services in developing countries. Calverton, MD: ICF Macro; 2011. p. 85. (DHS Comparative Reports 26)
- [Lu, M. C., & Halfon, N. (2003). Racial and ethnic disparities in birth outcomes: a life-course perspective. Maternal and child health journal, 7(1), 13-30.], [Lu, M. C., & Halfon, N. (2003). Racial and ethnic disparities in birth outcomes: a life-course perspective. Maternal and child health journal, 7(1), 13-30.]
- See for instance mortality rates at the Dublin Maternity Hospital 1784–1849
- Use of the non-pneumatic anti-shock garment (NASG) to reduce blood loss and time to recovery from shock for women with obstetric haemorrhage in Egypt. S. Miller, J. M. Turan, K. Dau, M. Fathalla, M. Mourad, T. Sutherland, S. Hamza, F. Lester, E. B. Gibson, R. Gipson, et al. Glob Public Health. 2007; 2(2): 110–124. doi: 10.1080/17441690601012536 (NASG)
- Use of a Condom to Control Massive Postpartum Hemorrhage Sayeba Akhter, FCPS, DRH, FICMCH, et al.
- Costello, A; Azad K, Barnett S (2006). "An alternative study to reduce maternal mortality". The Lancet 368 (9546): 1477–1479. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(06)69388-4.
- Chambers, V. and Booth, D. (2012) Delivering maternal health: why is Rwanda doing better than Malawi, Niger and Uganda? Briefing Paper, Overseas Development Institute. http://www.odi.org.uk/publications/6614-maternal-health-maternal-mortality-health-services-local-goverance-health-providers-malawi-uganda-niger-rwanda-local-problem-solving-accountability-sub-saharan-africa-institutions-mdg5-pregnancy-childbirth-delivery-bottlenecks-imihigo
- Maternal Mortality in Central Asia, Central Asia Health Review (CAHR), 2 June 2008.
- Maternal Mortality Estimates 2000 by the WHO & UNICEF
- The World Health Report 2005 – Make Every Mother and Child Count
- Confidential Enquiry into Maternal and Child Health (CEMACH) - UK triennial enquiry into "Why Mothers Die"
- Reducing Maternal Mortality in Developing Countries - Video, presentations, and summary of event held at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, March 2008
- Birth of a Surgeon PBS documentary about midwives trained in surgical techniques in Mozambique
- Save A Mother Non-profit focused on MMR reduction.
- The Global Library of Women's Medicine Safer Motherhood Section - non-profit offering freely downloadable material for healthcare professionals