U.N.: Maternal Death Rate Drops Sharply Worldwide

Maternal deaths fell to about 287,000 in 2010, the report said. The decline is attributable to increases in contraception and in antiretroviral drugs for mothers with AIDS, and to greater numbers of births attended by nurses, doctors or midwives with medical training.

The agencies said the deaths had fallen by 47 percent from the United Nations' 1990 estimate of 543,000, but the organization has been revising its historical estimates in response to skeptical research by a rival group of epidemiologists at the University of Washington.

Image: African mother, via Shutterstock.

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