6 Improve maternal health

Where we are

Photo: UNFPA

Maternal mortality has declined considerably over the last two decades, from 796 per 100,000 live births in 1995 to 357 per 100,000 live births in 2009. Still, the Lao PDR has one of the highest maternal mortality ratios in the region. Births attended by a medical professional jumped from 14% in 1995 to 42% in 2009, but the number still falls short of the 50% target. Further, facility-based deliveries are still low at 38%. There continue to be massive disparities in delivery assistance, with the safe-delivery rate in urban areas six times higher than in remote rural areas.  To achieve the 2015 targets, the Lao PDR will need to improve the quality of services, promote facility-based delivery and prevent high-risk and unwanted pregnancies. Family planning alone could cut maternal deaths by almost a third and is one of the most cost-effective interventions to help reduce maternal mortality. Mobilization and health education activities will need to target women and men from communities in the remote rural areas.

Meeting the targets

Priority inventions include family planning to reduce unwanted pregnancies, presence of skilled birth attendants at deliveries, and access to emergency obstetric and neonatal care. These interventions will only be effective, however, if they reach out to women in rural and remote communities. Improvement in the population's health status is a central priority of the 7th National Socio-Economic Development Plan. To increase the use of health services and provide the reproductive health care needed to improve maternal and neonatal health, investment in training and capacity strengthening for health personnel, especially skilled birth attendants, is required. Health systems must meet minimum standards in terms of human resources, infrastructure, supplies and management. As a result, expenditures for the health sector, including reproductive health, need to be increased.



Targets for MDG 5
  1. Reduce by three quarters the maternal mortality ratio
    • Most maternal deaths could be avoided
    • Giving birth is especially risky in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, where most women deliver without skilled care
    • The rural-urban gap in skilled care during childbirth has narrowed
  2. Achieve universal access to reproductive health & inadequate funding for family planning is a major failure in fulfilling commitments to improving women’s reproductive health
    • More women are receiving antenatal care
    • Inequalities in care during pregnancy are striking
    • Only one in three rural women in developing regions receive the recommended care during pregnancy
    • Progress has stalled in reducing the number of teenage pregnancies, putting more young mothers at risk
    • Poverty and lack of education perpetuate high adolescent birth rates
    • Progress in expanding the use of contraceptives by women has slowed & use of contraception is lowest among the poorest women and those with no education