Background: There are large differences in pregnancy outcome between high income countries and many middle and low income countries. In fact, maternal, fetal and neonatal mortality rates in many low-income countries approximate those that were seen in high-income countries nearly a century ago.
Findings: This paper documents the very substantial reductions in maternal, fetal and neonatal mortality rates in high income countries over the last century and explores the likely reasons for those reductions. The conditions responsible for the current high mortality rates in low and middle income countries are discussed as are the interventions likely to result in substantial reductions in maternal, fetal and neonatal mortality from those conditions. The conditions that result in maternal mortality are often responsible for fetal and neonatal mortality and the interventions that save maternal lives often reduce fetal and neonatal mortality as well. Single interventions rarely achieve substantial reductions in mortality. Instead, upgrading the system of care so that appropriate interventions could be applied at appropriate times is most likely to achieve the desired reductions in maternal, fetal and neonatal mortality.
Keywords: Low-income countries; Maternal mortality; Neonatal mortality; Stillbirth.