Yesterday, Roy M. Pitkin, Professor Emeritus in the UCLA School of Medicine and author of the new book Gods Love: A Modern Medical Perspective on Illnesses that Caused the Early Death of Famous People wrote about the reduction of maternal mortality as the greatest success of the 20th century. He says:
The 20th century brought many, many improvements in health, including a near doubling in average life expectancy from birth. But by far the most remarkable was the incredible increase in the safety of childbearing. What was formerly a distressingly common tragedy -- death of a woman as a result of pregnancy complications -- in the space of about two generations became vanishingly rare, at least in developed countries.
"At least in developed countries" -- that's a pretty big caveat. While maternal mortality in the US dropped by 99% over 50 years, it remains a common cause of death in most developing countries. And even though the drop in the US is encouraging, the US only ranks 41st in maternal mortality around the world. We still have a long way to go.