Time Magazine has an article, Death in Birth, (prominently mentioning White Ribbon Alliance, a global advocacy organization that works with governments to lower maternal mortality rates) on maternal mortality - worth reading.
But also read what Judith Lothian has to say in response on the Lamaze blog (the emphasis is mine):
Death in Birth September 21st, 2008 by Judith Lothian
This week’s Time magazine reports on the frighteningly high maternal mortality rates in some parts of the world. Death in Birth describes a range of factors that contribute to women’s deaths during childbirth, including lack of access to midwives, poor health care delivery in general, and, very important, but least emphasized in this article, hygeine and nutrition. Access to clean water and adequate food would go a long way to changing things…as it did in the developed world a century plus ago. The World Health Organization is committed to providing additional training for local traditional midwives. But insuring safe water and adequate food are just as important if women are going to stop dying in childbirth in these countries.
This story seems so far away to most women in the US. But it shouldn’t. Women are dying in the US too. In fact, maternal mortality in the US is on the rise for the first time in decades. But for us the reasons are quite different. In the US intervention intensive maternity care increases risk for mother and babies. The rising cesarean rate increases risk for mothers, at the time of the surgery, and during future pregnancies and births. And routine interventions, like induction of labor, continuous electronic fetal monitoring, and restrictions on movment and eating and drinking in labor, contribute to complications and the need for more interventions.
Reading Death in Birth is sure to frighten women. But, in the US, what we should be most frightened of is standard maternity care that interferes with the normal, natural process (so beautifully designed) of labor and birth, not our ability as women to give birth safely. We know how to make birth safe for mothers and babies. Don’t interfere unless there is a true medical indication.