What is maternal health?

In the DHS, maternal health refers specifically to health care surrounding childbearing; that is, antenatal care, delivery assistance, and postnatal care.

Which DHS data are related to maternal health?

The DHS maternal health indicators measure maternal health care against national recommendations, such as the recommended number of antenatal care visits and the preferred timing for postnatal care. The measures of maternal health care are also compared to women’s status.

  • Antenatal care
  • Number of antenatal care visits and timing of first visit
  • Tetanus toxoid vaccination
  • Components of antenatal care
  • Iron tablets/anti-malarial drugs
  • Place of delivery
  • Assistance during delivery
  • Characteristics of delivery
  • Delivery complications
  • Problems in accessing health care
  • Use of smoking tobacco

Which SPA data are related to maternal health?

SPA surveys conduct assessment of maternal health services, including availability of antenatal care and associated equipment and medicines, counseling and observation of client examinations. Delivery services are also assessed, including availability of emergency transport, items for delivery services and essential supplies for delivery.

Why is maternal health important?

Health care and counseling before, during and after birth – or the lack of if – impact the survival of both mothers and children. Maternal health indicators help program staff identify the groups of women and infants at the national and sub-national level who are not accessing maternal health services.

The DHS Comparative Report, Levels and Trends in the Use of Maternal Health Services in Developing Countries, shows that overall, the use of antenatal care services has increased worldwide.


Photo credit: © 2006 Dibyendu Dey Choudhury, Courtesy of Photoshare. A mother smiles with her young child in India.

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Comparative Report 26 - Levels and Trends in the Use of Maternal Health Services in Developing Countries

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Extensive data on maternal health are available on STATcompiler; compare among countries and analyze trends over time.