Pregnancy-related deaths rise in the United States

February 1, 2011

While it is rare for a woman in the United States to die from pregnancy complications, the national rate of pregnancy-related deaths is on the rise, according to the CDC.

While it is rare for a woman in the United States to die from pregnancy complications, the national rate of pregnancy-related deaths is on the rise, according to researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who found that between 1998 and 2005, the rate of pregnancy-related deaths ranged from 12 to 16.8 per 100,000 live births, for an aggregate number of 14.5. That rate is higher than during any other period in the previous 20 years.

African American women continue to be at 3 to 4 times the risk for pregnancy-related death; for the 8-year period, the pregnancy-related mortality ratio was 10.2 for Caucasian women, 37.5 for African American women, and 13.4 for non-white, non-African American women.

Mortality increased with maternal age for all races. Among Caucasian women, the mortality ratio was 40% higher for unmarried versus married women, whereas for African American women and women of other races, marital status had little or no effect.

The authors warn that it is unclear whether the statistics reflect a true increase in the risk for women dying during birth or whether changes in coding in the International Classification of Diseases, 10th Revision, and the addition by states of pregnancy check boxes to their death certificates influence the figures.

Berg CJ, Callaghan WM, Syverson C, Henderson Z. Pregnancy-related mortality in the United States, 1998 to 2005. Obstet Gynecol. 2010;116(6):1302–1309.