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According to a report published yesterday (May 7) by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 700 women die annually in the US from pregnancy-related complications, and most of them are preventable. The report also highlights the racial differences in pregnancy-related deaths. Black women and Native American women die at rates 3.3 and 2.5 times higher than non-Hispanic white women, respectively, according to the study.

Staff at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) analyzed data on the causes of death and risk factors associated with maternal deaths in 13 US states from 2011 to 2015, during which 3,410 pregnancy-related deaths occurred. A little more than 30 percent of the deaths occurred during pregnancy, nearly 17 percent on the day of delivery, 19 percent during the first week postpartum, and the...

Factors that contribute to pregnancy-related deaths fall into several categories: community, health facility, patient, and healthcare providers, according to the report. Some health emergencies that contribute to deaths include hemorrhage, hypertensive disorders, heart disease, and embolism. The authors evaluated 251 deaths for preventability and estimated that 60 percent of those deaths could have been avoided and did not differ across races. Prevention strategies may include helping women find temporary housing, access transportation, and receive educational materials. 

The authors emphasize that care for women after birth is crucial to the mother’s health. “We as a society do a terrible job of taking care of mothers after the baby comes out,” Alison Stuebe of the University of North Carolina who was not involved in the report tells the Associated Press. And care could extend to much longer after the pregnancy is over. “It’s really important for us to care for our pregnant and postpartum women during pregnancy and even up to one year after delivery,” says coauther Emily Petersen of the CDC to STAT.

Although not all the deaths are preventable, sources agree that more can be done. “We have the means to identify and close gaps in the care they receive,” Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC, tells The New York Times.

The authors suggest that women with chronic medical conditions and complications during pregnancy such as hypertension should remain in contact with their doctors postpartum.

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