Global Health Observatory (GHO)

Skilled attendants at birth

Situation and trends

Most obstetric complications could be prevented or managed if women had access to skilled birth attendant – doctor, nurse, midwife – during childbirth. During the period 2005 to 2012, around 70% of women were assisted by a skilled attendant during childbirth. However, there were significant differences across regions and between income groups. Access to skilled care is lowest in the WHO South-East Asia and African regions. In low-income countries, the coverage of skilled attendant at delivery was only 47%, compared with 60% in lower middle-income countries and 99% in upper middle-income countries.

Declines in maternal mortality rates between 1990 and 2010 may be due in part to improvements in other MDG5 indicators such as the proportion of deliveries attended by skilled health personnel. Globally, the proportion of births attended by a skilled health personnel has increased from 59% to 68% between 1990 and 2009. In the WHO South-East Asia Region with significant decreases in maternal mortality rates, increases in skilled health personnel at delivery are seen. Conversely, in the WHO African Region where the greatest number of maternal deaths occurred in 2010, there has been only modest progress-as still fewer than 50% of births are attended by skilled health personnel.