What’s The Likelihood Of You Dying In Childbirth?

downton abbey sibyl

Well, the odds of dying in childbirth are reassuringly low if you are not pregnant, so that may be something to keep in mind if you are not currently pregnant. However, if you are a Downton Abbey fan – SPOILERS AHEAD – you probably also thought that the odds of dying in chilbirth around the turn of the century were pretty low, but, oh, no, that did not stop Sibyl from dying, did it? And then the Dowager Countess wept and said that she had died in childbirth like many before her. Oh, God, it was sad.

How did Downton Abbey rip my heart out and simultaneously fill my head with so many questions about whether or not I was still likely to die in childbirth? Did it do the same for you? Are we the same person?

If so, it may cheer you up to know that, maternal mortality is now very rare in developed countries – there are approximately 17 deaths per every 100,000 pregnancies in the US. So your likelihood of death from childbirth is probably around .017%. That is very low.


However, according to The World Health Organization 800 deaths still occur due to complication resulting from childbirth per day, and 99% of those are in third world countries. That ends up being around 287,000 deaths per year. But the rate has still dropped 50% in the past ten years, in part because of many programs working to decrease the maternal mortality rate.

For instance, There’s currently a program in Tanzania aiming to end maternal mortality in that region, which says:

More than 100 local non-physician clinicians including assistant medical officers and nurse midwives in Tanzania’s most isolated areas have been trained to perform life-saving procedures including caesarean sections since the program began. The number of maternal deaths from bleeding and other complications in Tanzania have been reduced; in one district alone, maternal deaths declined by 32% in less than 2 years due to the project.
To date, more than one thousand babies have been delivered by c-section in villages where women previously had to travel several hours to receive care – often when it was too late. Women in Tanzania deliver an average of 5.5 children in their lifetime, meaning every mother’s life saved not only impacts her and her newborn but also the well-being of her other children.

That would be a good thing to consider donating to, maybe! Also, if you’re interested, because, OH MY GOD LADY CORA AT SIBYL’S BEDSIDE, here are some good foundations you can support to help prevent maternal mortality around the world:

Global Giving

Every Mother Counts

Amnesty International

Picture via Downton Abbey

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    • MR

      I know it’s much earlier than Downton – I think it’s in the 1840s – but that scene in ‘A Christmas Carol’, when Scrooge’s sister dies always move me.

    • Slashie

      That picture plus that title ARE a spoiler. Come on. It’s not unreasonable to wait one day in this DVR age before putting a major character death of a popular show on the front page.

    • thaumata

      Maternal death IS very rare these days, but it does happen. My little sister recently died at seven and a half months pregnant from complications stemming from severe and sudden pre-eclampsia, so please allow me to get on my soapbox for a moment: If you are pregnant, please educate yourself about the signs and symptoms of pre-e. You can see a list of them here: http://www.preeclampsia.org/health-information/signs-and-symptoms. A lot of them mimic like normal pregnancy aches and pains, and so a lot of women shrug them off as normal, but do yourself a favor and CALL THE DOCTOR if something seems even a little weird. It’s their job to listen to you when you feel funny, not a burden. Pre-e is common and is usually pretty treatable if you catch it early, and catching it early could save your life or your baby’s life. (For the record, my niece survived and, despite her rough start in life, she is now a fat and sassy nine month old who is thriving with her dad.)

      • Tania

        I am so sorry about your sister. My cousin’s wife was at the doctor for a routine check-up when they found out she was pre-e and they immediately delivered the baby via c-section, and thankfully the mother and son are doing well. I am glad your niece is thriving, and I’m sure your sister would be thankful for that, too.