CDC says most pregnancy-related deaths are preventable

CDC says most pregnancy-related deaths are preventable
© Thinkstock

Roughly 700 women die in the U.S. each year from pregnancy-related complications, including during delivery and complications up to a year after birth, according to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study.

The CDC found that three out of every five deaths could be prevented with better care.

The study also found that black women, American Indian and Alaskan Native women were about three times as likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause as white women.

The study underscored that a lack of access to appropriate care, missed or delayed diagnoses, and lack of knowledge among patients and providers around warning signs all contributed to maternal deaths.


“Ensuring quality care for mothers throughout their pregnancies and postpartum should be among our nation’s highest priorities,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said in a statement.

The U.S. has the highest rate of pregnancy-related deaths among industrialized countries, partly because of the prevalence of cesarean section that can lead to life-threatening complications and underlying, chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.

The findings are the result of a CDC analysis of national data on pregnancy mortality from 2011-2015 and of detailed data from 13 state maternal mortality review committees from 2013-2017.

The CDC found heart disease and stroke were the leading causes of death each year during that period.

The analysis “underscores the need for access to quality services, risk awareness, and early diagnosis, but it also highlights opportunities for preventing future pregnancy-related deaths,” Wanda Barfield, director of the CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health, said in a statement.  

The analysis found deaths can happen over a long period of time, including up to a year after delivery. About 31 percent of deaths occurred during pregnancy, 36 percent during delivery and up to a week afterward, and 33 percent anytime between a week and a year after birth.

Democratic presidential candidates have taken notice of the issue, especially the persistent racial disparities.

With Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenBiden defends his health plan from Trump attacks Progressives blast Biden plan to form panel on Supreme Court reform Biden endorses Texas Democratic House candidate Julie Oliver MORE (D-Mass.) and Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisThe Hill's Campaign Report: Trump, Biden face off for last time on the debate stage Obama says he voted by mail: 'It's not as tough as a lot of folks think' Clean energy opportunities in a time of crisis MORE (D-Calif.) leading the cause, Democrats have made addressing the issue a core part of their platforms, appealing to black women whose support is critical to winning the Democratic primary.

The CDC said providers can do more to help patients manage chronic health conditions and educate them about warning signs of dangerous complications. Hospitals and health systems can work to improve the delivery of care before, during and after pregnancy, including standardizing the way their providers respond to obstetric emergencies.