UPDATE: apparently the research is mixed on whether maternal mortality is actually going up or down. Looks like it depends which researcher you ask. From Women's eNews :
Two studies released this week offer conflicting information about the maternal mortality rate. The rate at which women die in childbirth or soon after delivery has fallen by about 40 percent since 1980, with dramatic reductions in the populous nations of India, China, Brazil and Egypt, reported The Washington Post on April 14. Published in the British medical journal Lancet, the study found that maternal deaths have fallen from about 500,000 deaths in 1980 to about 343,000 in 2008. However, a separate report by a group headed by the United Nations reached a very different conclusion on maternal mortality, saying that from 350,000 to 500,000 women still die in childbirth every year, reported the Associated Press.
Here’s some exciting news  to brighten up your Wednesday:
For the first time in decades, researchers are reporting a significant drop worldwide in the number of women dying each year from pregnancy and childbirth, to about 342,900 in 2008 from 526,300 in 1980.
According to the report commissioned by the Gates Foundation, the decline can be attributed to
lower pregnancy rates in some countries; higher income, which improves nutrition and access to health care; more education for women; and the increasing availability of “skilled attendants” — people with some medical training — to help women give birth.
Even with this great news, we’ve still got work to do. While improvements in countries with large populations—like India and China—helped to drive down the overall rates, maternal mortality is still high in many of the poorest countries, particularly sub-Saharan Africa.