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Here's What Giving Birth Looks Like — In Two Very Different Worlds

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    Photo: Courtesy of Moa Karlberg.

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    This story was originally published on October 9, 2015.

    Around 800 women die of complications related to pregnancy and childbirth each day, the World Health Organization estimates.

    Although the overall maternal mortality rate has dropped nearly 50% since 1990, the miracle of life still comes with serious risk in some corners of the globe.

    Tanzania is one of those countries. The East African nation reports startlingly high rates of women dying during childbirth. Nearly one-fifth of all deaths among women ages 15 to 49 in Tanzania are related to pregnancy and labor, the WHO estimates. The country's maternal mortality rate of 578 deaths per 100,000 live childbirths is more than two times the global average.

    In Sweden, home of what's been rated one of the world's best healthcare systems, the statistics and experiences tell a much more optimistic story. The maternal mortality rate there is one of the world's lowest — just four women per 100,000 childbirths, according to the WHO.

    A quick crunching of those numbers suggests that women are more than 100 times more likely to die in childbirth in Tanzania than they are in Sweden.

    Moa Karlberg, a Stockholm-based photojournalist, said she wanted to capture those two very different realities of an experience shared by women around the globe. The resulting photo series, titled Hundred Times the Difference, seeks to show both the beauty and pain of labor and the disparate environments in which women give birth.

    "During their lifetime, the majority of the world's women give birth to at least one child," she wrote in her project's introduction. "Although everybody goes through the same phases physically, the external conditions are fundamentally different."

    Karlberg, who had photographed women in labor in her home country of Sweden for several years, traveled to Tanzania with the help of a scholarship from the International Women's Media Foundation to capture women giving birth there. She chose not to name the subjects or detail their individual stories, instead focusing in her own writing on her overall observations.

    "For me, it is the common experience that I want to emphasize," Karlberg told Refinery29.

    Karlberg shared her photos with Refinery29, as well as excerpts from the project and her thoughts about what can be done to lower the maternal mortality rate in places like Tanzania. She spoke with us from her home in Sweden.

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  2. Photo: Courtesy of Moa Karlberg.

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  3. Photo: Courtesy of Moa Karlberg.

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  4. Photo: Courtesy of Moa Karlberg.

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  5. Photo: Courtesy of Moa Karlberg.

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  6. Photo: Courtesy of Moa Karlberg.

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