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YANGON, Myanmar — A new census report uncovers stark realities: 2,800 women die each year in childbirth and pregnancy; and one in five deaths among young women is a maternal death.

“The findings reveal the suffering of women and the anguish of surviving families. A significant decline in maternal mortality rates would be achieved if women had the choice to give birth to fewer children. The report underlines the need for better family planning options in Myanmar”, says Janet E. Jackson, UNFPA Representative for Myanmar. 

At 282 per 100,000 live births, Myanmar’s maternal mortality ratio (MMR) is the second-highest in ASEAN. Every day, eight women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy, childbirth and care in the early weeks after birth. About one in ten deaths among women of reproductive age is a maternal death. The findings come from the 2014 Myanmar Population and Housing Census Thematic Report on Maternal Mortality.

The most important factors contributing to maternal mortality are isolation and deprivation. Maternal mortality is higher among poor and uneducated women who have a limited ability to recognize pregnancy complications and to access care. The MMR differs between states and regions. It is significantly lower in urban areas and for women who give birth in a facility that can provide basic and emergency obstetric care. Most maternal deaths are caused by treatable conditions such as bleeding and infection.

Fertility also plays an important role. Mortality is higher among women who give birth frequently; among very young women, whose bodies are not ready for childbirth; and among women over 40. Women over 45 are four times more likely to die in childbirth. But age itself is not the only factor. Early, late and frequent pregnancies indicate social and economic disadvantages that hinder access to contraception and reproductive health information. The findings show that maternal health care does not reach everyone. The report calls for policies and interventions that support safe motherhood, especially in deprived communities and in remote areas.

To reduce maternal death, the Government of Myanmar, with the support of UNFPA and WHO, is launching the Maternal Death Surveillance and Response action programme. Training of health staff is already underway, mandatory recording of maternal deaths will start in December.

“Each maternal death is a tragedy. Each maternal death has a story to tell. This is the tool that will ensure that every maternal death is counted. Once we know the true magnitude of maternal mortality and its causes, the Myanmar health system will be more able to employ practical ways to address its causes”, says Janet E. Jackson, UNFPA Representative for Myanmar. 

UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, delivers a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.


For more information, please contact:
Yenny Gamming; Tel: +95- (0)9 2604 00005;
Si Thu Soe Moe; Tel: +95- (0)9 4500 57730;


Download: Maternal mortality report (2014 Myanmar Population and Housing Census)


Key figures

MMR – Myanmar: 282 per 100,000 live births; Rural: 310; Urban: 193; Southeast Asia: 140; Developing countries: 210; Developed countries: 16

Maternal mortality report presentation slides


Notes to Editors
The main results of the 2014 Myanmar Population and Housing Census were published in May 2015. The thematic report published today is one of the first in a series of 13. The thematic reports contain new data as well as previously released data which have been statistically adjusted for higher accuracy. The reports analyse the relationship between different data, and shed light on what the numbers tell us about the lives of people in Myanmar. The census was conducted by the Government of Myanmar. UNFPA has provided, and continues to provide, technical and financial support towards the census.

The census MMR of 282 is significantly higher than the MMR of 178 estimated in 2014 by WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, and the World Bank. This inter-agency estimate was not based on maternal death data, but on a model that uses macro-economic, fertility and health system data. The inter-agency model is used for countries, such as Myanmar, which lack adequate data on maternal death. In this context, the census provided an opportunity to create Myanmar’s first complete and nationwide dataset based on actual maternal deaths. While different methods and studies produce varying MMR figures, it is important to recognize that all available MMR estimates for Myanmar tell the same story: Too many women die in pregnancy and childbirth.