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WHO conducted the largest study to date assessing severe complications and ‘near misses’ in pregnancy. The WHO Multicountry Survey on Maternal and Newborn Health found that ‘essential interventions’ – simple treatments which are indispensable for effective maternal care, such as providing uterotonics for preventing postpartum haemorrhage, or magnesium sulphate for eclampsia – do not necessarily reduce maternal mortality in health care facilities which provide them.

This study suggests that to achieve a substantial reduction in maternal mortality, a comprehensive approach to emergency care, and overall improvements in the quality of maternal health care will be needed.