“More lives could be saved if all women had access to voluntary family planning, ensuring that births are spaced properly, to skilled attendance at all births, and to emergency obstetric care. UNFPA is committed to reducing the high levels of maternal death and disability that exist today.” — Thoraya Obaid, Executive Director of UNFPA, 2006
Every minute, another woman dies in pregnancy or childbirth. Every minute, the loss of a mother shatters a family and threatens the well-being of surviving children. For every woman who dies, 20 or more experience serious complications. These range from chronic infections to disabling injuries such as obstetric fistula. Maternal death and disability rates mirror the huge discrepancies that exist between the haves and the have-nots both within and between countries.
Working for the survival of mothers is a human rights imperative. It also has enormous socio-economic ramifications and is a crucial international development priority. Both the International Conference on Population and Development and the Millennium Development Goals call for a 75 percent reduction in maternal mortality between 1990 and 2015.
This three-pronged strategy is a key to the accomplishment of the goal: all women should have access to contraception to avoid unintended pregnancies; all pregnant women should have access to skilled care at the time of birth; all those with complications should have timely access to quality emergency obstetric care.
Egypt has achieved a significant improvement in the past 20 years in matters related to maternal health. Ninety-four percent of pregnant women have seen a medical provider for at least some type of care during pregnancy, and 74 percent of the deliveries have sought antenatal care. The DHS 2008 reported that 66 percent of pregnant women have received the minimum number of antenatal care visits (four). Also, 79 percent of births are assisted by medical personnel and most of the remaining deliveries are assisted by Dayas (traditional attendants), while 72 percent of them take place in a health facility.
In general terms, trends in maternal health indicators have improved significantly since 1995. Regular antenatal care has raised from 28 percent in 1995 to 66 percent in 2008. Equally, medically-assisted delivery has moved from 46 percent to 79 percent in 2008.
Despite all these developments, there are still many gaps that demand further efforts. As is mentioned in other related UNFPA fields of expertise, regional and economic disparities remain the main challenge to accomplishing national goals and the MDGs.
A woman’s residence and education status are strongly associated with the receipt of maternity care. For example, the percentage of births in which the mother receives regular antenatal care is 57 percent among rural births compared to 80 percent among urban births. Coverage of maternity care services is especially low in rural Upper Egypt, where regular antenatal care is received for 49 percent of births, and 59 percent of deliveries were medically assisted. Regular antenatal care is received for just over 40 percent of births to women in the lowest wealth quintile compared to nearly 90 percent of births to women in the highest quintile. The proportion of births assisted by a medical provider rises steadily with the wealth quintile from 55 percent in the lowest quintile to 97 percent in the highest quintile.