Joining over 1,500 world leaders, 23rd District Congresswoman Lois Capps went to London last weekend to examine the world’s high maternal death rate, in which one in 16 mothers die per year during childbirth.

Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues, Capps, along with five other congresswomen, represented the United States at the Women Deliver Conference on Maternal Mortality. The conference, held from Oct. 18-20, focused on methods to reduce maternal mortality rates using educational programs and advanced methods. In a press release, Capps stated that the amount of childbirth related deaths in the U.S. was inexcusable.

“The United States is ranked 41st in the world in maternal mortality rates, despite having access to the most advanced medical technologies and top experts in healthcare,” Capps said. “We have to ask ourselves, what are these 40 countries doing to better protect the health and well-being of our mothers, how can we learn from them and how can we improve conditions throughout the world?”

In a report issued Oct. 12, approximately 500,000 preventable pregnancy- and childbirth-related deaths occur every year. Of these deaths, 99 percent occur in developing nations. According to Capps, nations can combat these death rates by using inexpensive funds directed toward informing mothers of prenatal care throughout the nine months of pregnancy and through post-partum healthcare and services. Capps stated that one fatal misconception in many countries is that women do not need medical assistance for a natural process.

“The challenges and risks of motherhood are universal,” Capps said. “People often assume that motherhood is the most natural thing in the world and there’s nothing to worry about, but clearly there’s something to worry about when a woman dies every minute in childbirth.”

The delegation also touched other issues like poverty reduction, women’s rights and financial advancement. The agenda of the conference was composed of five sessions and nearly 100 concurrent workshops that focused on five critical areas of investment in women and girls.

Some of these topics included improving women’s and newborns’ health, advancing human rights, expanding financial resources, building political will and promoting women in the world.

Capps stated that she hoped other such conferences might follow and encourage all countries to take charge of this important issue.

“This conference will be the first step as women leaders from around the world come together to tackle this challenging but solvable problem,” Capps said.