What Was the Maternal Mortality Rate in Ancient Times?

Maternal mortality rate refers to the number of women who die from pregnancy-related complications during childbirth or within 42 days of giving birth. The maternal mortality rate has been a concern for centuries, and while we have made significant progress in reducing it, it remains a major issue worldwide. But what was the maternal mortality rate in ancient times?

Ancient Times and Childbirth

Childbirth has always been a challenging experience for women, and the lack of medical knowledge and expertise in ancient times made it even riskier. The maternal mortality rate during ancient times was exceptionally high compared to today’s standards. According to historical records, many women died during childbirth as there were no proper medical facilities or trained healthcare professionals to handle complicated deliveries.

The Maternal Mortality Rate in Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egypt is one of the earliest civilizations known to humankind, and records suggest that childbirth was a significant event for women. However, due to limited medical knowledge and resources, maternal mortality rates were high. Historical evidence shows that approximately one in every forty Egyptian women died during childbirth or shortly after giving birth.

The Maternal Mortality Rate in Ancient Greece & Rome

In ancient Greece and Rome, childbirth was considered a natural process, and women were expected to deliver babies at home with the help of midwives or female family members. However, maternal mortality rates were still high due to inadequate hygiene practices and limited medical knowledge. Records indicate that the maternal mortality rate during this time was around 1 in 40 births.

Medieval Europe and Childbirth

During medieval Europe, the maternal mortality rate remained high as there were no proper medical facilities available for pregnant women. Women usually gave birth at home with the help of midwives or female family members who had little or no medical training. The lack of proper hygiene practices also contributed significantly to maternal deaths.

  • During the 14th century, the maternal mortality rate was around 1 in 30 births.
  • By the 16th century, the maternal mortality rate had risen to approximately 1 in 20 births.

The Impact of Modern Medicine

In modern times, medical knowledge and technology have significantly improved, reducing maternal mortality rates worldwide. Medical advancements such as prenatal care, antibiotics, safe blood transfusion services, and access to emergency obstetric care have made childbirth safer for women. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the global maternal mortality rate has decreased by approximately 38% since the year 2000.


In conclusion, while we have made significant progress in reducing maternal mortality rates worldwide, it remains a significant challenge. The situation was even worse during ancient times when medical knowledge and facilities were limited. It’s essential to continue investing in improving maternal healthcare and addressing issues such as inadequate resources and lack of access to medical services to reduce maternal deaths further.