Since the Millennium Declaration in 2000, unprecedented progress has been made in the reduction of global maternal mortality. Millennium Development Goal 5 (MDG 5; improving maternal health) includes two primary targets, 5A and 5B. Target 5A aimed for a 75% reduction in the global maternal mortality ratio (MMR), and 5B aimed to achieve universal access to reproductive health. Globally, maternal mortality since 1990 has nearly halved and access to reproductive health services in developing countries has substantially improved. In setting goals and targets for the post-MDG era, the global maternal health community has recognised that ultimate goal of ending preventable maternal mortality is now within reach. The new target of a global MMR of <70 deaths per 100 000 live births by 2030 is ambitious, yet achievable and to reach this target a significantly increased effort to promote and ensure universal, equitable access to reproductive, maternal and newborn services for all women and adolescents will be required. In this article, as we reflect on patterns, trends and determinants of maternal mortality, morbidity and other key MDG5 indicators among adolescents, we aim to highlight the importance of promoting and protecting the sexual and reproductive health and rights of adolescents as part of renewed global efforts to end preventable maternal mortality.