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In recent years, two important changes in maternal health have taken place worldwide: a reduction in global maternal mortality, and an increase in the proportion of childbirths occurring in health facilities. Although substantial progress has been made, the fifth Millennium Development Goal to reduce the maternal mortality ratio by three quarters before 2015 will be missed.
Against this backdrop, The Lancet publishes a special themed issue to coincide with the third Women Deliver conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on May 28–30, 2013. Women Deliver brings together voices from around the world to generate political commitment and resource investments to improve the health and well-being of girls and women and achieve universal access to reproductive health. The studies published in The Lancet's themed issue use different methods to show the multidimensional nature of reproductive health and the influence of social determinants and health systems.