Two Worlds of Maternal Health

  • By Susan K. Lewis
  • Posted 05.13.08
  • NOVA

For women in developing nations—far more so than for women in wealthy countries like the U.S.—childbirth poses significant risks. One in five African women will lose a baby during labor or soon after. And each year, more than half a million women throughout the developing world die from problems related to childbirth. In this quiz, get a sense of the stark disparities in maternal health for women and what can be done to close the gap.

Launch Interactive

See how women in rich and poor countries face very different risks when it comes to childbirth and maternal health.

Definition of Regions: Throughout the quiz, "developed" and "rich" refer to all countries of Europe and North America, plus Australia, Japan, and New Zealand. "Developing" and "poor" refer to all other regions and countries. This follows the classification used by the United Nations.

Sub-Saharan African countries include the following: Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Réunion, Rwanda, Saint Helena, Sí£o Tomé and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe


Population Reference Bureau's (PRB) 2007 World Population Data Sheet

United Nations Population Division's (UNPD) World Population Prospects: The 2006 Revision

World Health Organization's (WHO) The World Health Report 2005

World Health Organization's (WHO), United Nations Children's Fund's (UNICEF), United Nations Population Fund's (UNFPA), and The World Bank's Maternal Mortality in 2005: Estimates Developed by WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, and The World Bank

Population Reference Bureau, Family Planning Worldwide 2008 Data Sheet



© Klaas Lingbeek- van Kranen/
(woman walking, woman sitting in door of hut, two women looking through window at patient)
© 2008 WGBH Educational Foundation and Engel Entertainment
(pregnant woman close-up)
© Maya Moody/
(woman with baby on back)
© Deborah Benbrook/
(girl against wall)
© Peeter Viisimaa/
(birth control pills)
© Simon Smith/
(woman with two children)
© Jelani Memory/
(hospital room)
© Dr. Heinz Linke/
(portrait of young woman)
© Peeter Viisimaa/

Related Links

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  • Anatomy of Childbirth

    Review the stages of labor and delivery as well as some of the risks women face giving birth.

  • The Fistula Healer

    Dr. Catherine Hamlin explains why she has dedicated her life in Ethiopia to treating a devastating childbirth injury.

  • Secret Life of Ina Vandebroek

    Ethnobotanist Ina Vandebroek studies the medical wisdom of traditional cultures and salsa dances on the side.


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