Bahrain’s steady focus on maternal health care and the financial ability to provide it have led to low and stable maternal mortality rates for decades.

With a maternal mortality ratio of 22 deaths per 100,000 live births (2013), women in The Kingdom of Bahrain face a one in 2,000 lifetime risk of maternal death—slightly better odds than in the United States. Bahrain’s maternal mortality statistics have remained virtually the same since the 1990s, although they have been superior to regional averages for decades1. A constitutional monarchy with an elected legislative assembly, Bahrain has enjoyed increasing freedom of expression and an improved human rights situation over the years. As a banking and financial services center in the region, Bahrain’s small but prosperous economy is less dependent on oil than most Gulf states2. Its economic position and moderately peaceful past are likely main factors in its relatively low and stable rates of maternal mortality. However, long-running tensions between Bahrain’s Sunnis and the Shia Muslim majority have led to civil unrest at times, and after a government crackdown on the 2011 pro-democracy protests, discontent has continued to simmer. Understandably, further and more severe civil strife could strain Bahrain’s capacity to protect and defend maternal health.

According to data collected between 1987 and 2004, the top four causes of maternal mortality in Bahrain were sickle-cell disease, hypertension, embolism and hemorrhage. Researchers determined that almost 30 percent of maternal deaths were avoidable, nearly half of which were due to a shortage of intensive care beds3. The government has also recognized that iron deficiency anemia among expectant mothers has been a significant problem4.

Health services are free to all Bahraini women and reports indicate that by 1998, nearly all expectant mothers (99 percent) attended clinics to receive prenatal care and nearly all births (98 percent) occurred under medical supervision5. The government has provided continuous training to physicians and state-registered midwives, special hospital care to women suffering from chronic diseases, and modernized technological equipment for the early detection of maternal health problems. It also offers family planning services, various forms of contraception, and periodic examinations for cancer prevention. Moreover, the government has undertaken several studies and research projects to evaluate maternal health and nutrition as well as the incidence of anemia. Additionally, the Ministry of Health collaborates with the private sector and women’s associations to provide educational programs on reproductive health and family planning, encouraging male participation in the programs6.

Bahrain has long focused on preventative health for women and better access to health services, but more recently, the government has emphasized a strategy of health promotion through its action program and the Bahrain Economic Vision 2030. So far, this has included building additional health centers (with the goal to have one health center for every 20,000 people) and introducing more extensive maternal health services. The government has also been establishing new obstetrics and gynecology clinics, has constructed a new maternity hospital, and has renovated and expanded other hospitals to include more maternity beds. Furthermore, the government has updated old guides to maternal health services and trained health service providers in their use. The guides include information on regular screening, breastfeeding, post-partum health, family planning and protecting women and children from violence7. The Ministry of Health has also recently implemented a policy to ensure that medical professionals obtain a woman’s consent to a C-section and medical treatment without requiring the husband’s consent8.

Bahraini women still face a number of health challenges that worsen with pregnancy, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and iron deficiency anemia. However, the government has adopted several measures to address these challenges, and has consistently demonstrated its resolve to improve both the quality and quantity of maternal health services9. Barring further civil unrest, Bahrain’s steady focus on preventative health care for women and the financial ability to provide it will ensure that maternal health continues to improve in years to come.


  1. UN Maternal Mortality Estimation Inter-agency Group, Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2013 (Geneva 2014), pp. 31-43. 

  2. BBC Staff, “Bahrain country profile,” BBC News, 20 May 2015

  3. A.K. Sandhu and F.E. Mustafa, “Maternal mortality in Bahrain: An audit of causes of avoidable death,” East Mediterranean Health Journal, vol. 14, No. 3 (May-June 2008)

  4. Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 44 of the Convention, Initial reports of states parties due in 1994: BAHRAIN, U.N. Doc. CRC/C/11/Add.24 (2001), p. 40. 

  5. Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 44 of the Convention, Initial reports of states parties due in 1994: BAHRAIN, U.N. Doc. CRC/C/11/Add.24 (2001), p. 40. 

  6. Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 44 of the Convention, Initial reports of states parties due in 1994: BAHRAIN, U.N. Doc. CRC/C/11/Add.24 (2001), pp. 40-41. 

  7. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, Third periodic report: Bahrain, U.N. Doc. CEDAW/C/BHR/3 (2011), pp. 43-44. 

  8. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, Third periodic report: Bahrain, U.N. Doc. CEDAW/C/BHR/3 (2011), pp. 44-45. 

  9. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, Third periodic report: Bahrain, U.N. Doc. CEDAW/C/BHR/3 (2011), pp. 46-47.