Four in 5 Pregnancy-related Deaths in the U.S. Are Preventable

Atlanta, GA–More than 80% of pregnancy-related deaths were preventable, according to 2017-2019 data from Maternal Mortality Review Committees (MMRCs), which are representatives of diverse clinical and non-clinical backgrounds who review the circumstances around pregnancy-related deaths to identify recommendations to prevent future deaths. Information from MMRCs in 36 U.S. states on leading causes of death by race and ethnicity can be used to prioritize interventions that can save lives and reduce health disparities.

“The report paints a much clearer picture of pregnancy-related deaths in this country,” said Wanda Barfield, M.D., M.P.H., director of CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health at the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. “The majority of pregnancy-related deaths were preventable, highlighting the need for quality improvement initiatives in states, hospitals, and communities that ensure all people who are pregnant or postpartum get the right care at the right time.”

Key Findings:

Among pregnancy-related deaths with information on timing, 22% of deaths occurred during pregnancy, 25% occurred on the day of delivery or within 7 days after, and 53% occurred between 7 days to 1 year after pregnancy.

The leading underlying causes of pregnancy-related death include:

  • Mental health conditions (including deaths to suicide and overdose/poisoning related to substance use disorder) (23%)
  • Excessive bleeding (hemorrhage) (14%)
  • Cardiac and coronary conditions (relating to the heart) (13%)
  • Infection (9%)
  • Thrombotic embolism (a type of blood clot) (9%)
  • Cardiomyopathy (a disease of the heart muscle) (9%)
  • Hypertensive disorders of pregnancy (relating to high blood pressure) (7%)

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