UNFPA is the lead United Nations agency for delivering a world where every pregnancy is wanted and every childbirth is safe. Working for the survival of mothers is a human rights imperative, and it is a development priority.

United Nations Population Fund

“Working for the survival of mothers is a human rights imperative, and it is a development priority.”

Almost 800 women still die every day from causes related to pregnancy or childbirth. This is about one woman every two minutes.

And for every woman who dies, 20 or 30 encounter complications with serious or long-lasting consequences. Most of these deaths and injuries are entirely preventable.

Making motherhood safer is a top priority for UNFPA. UNFPA works at all levels to promote universal access to sexual and reproductive health care and rights, including by promoting international maternal health standards and providing guidance and support to health systems.

UNFPA-supported programmes emphasize capacity development in maternal care, especially the strengthening of human resources and emergency obstetric and newborn care. Among its many programmes, UNFPA helps to train midwives, supports emergency obstetric and newborn care networks, and provides essential drugs and family planning services. UNFPA also supports the implementation of maternal death review and response systems, which help officials understand how many women are dying, why, and how to respond.

UNFPA works around the world with governments, health experts and civil society to train health workers, improve the availability of essential medicines and reproductive health services, strengthen health systems, and promote international maternal health standards.


Throughout Europe we are also witnessing an increasing medicalization of birth – for example, lack of choice on where and how to deliver, increasing rates of cesarean section – which tend to make childbirth an overly technical procedure rather than an emotional, joyous experience. While we of course want specialized medical care and adequate interventions available to ensure appropriate care and positive outcomes for high risk and complex pregnancies and births, there is a danger – and an economic loss – in applying practices that are required for complex pregnancies and birth when it is not medically necessary. Luckily many European countries are working to negate this trend by promoting midwifery lead care, mother friendly hospitals with room for family and the breastfeeding friendly hospital initiative.


Pregnant women attending a birth preparation class at the Centre for Women’s and Maternity Health Care in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Credit: Armin Smailovic for UNFPA Bosnia and Herzegovina


Youth forum in Ukraine. Photo: UNFPA Ukraine

Participants in the Youth Interregional Forum held in Ukraine. Photo: UNFPA Ukraine