“An International Embarrassment”: Maternal Mortality Rates Rise in U.S., Even as They Decrease Elsewhere

November 2, 2016 | Strategic Insights for Health System


​Despite reduction goals from the United Nations, the U.S. maternal mortality rate is "moving in the wrong direction," according to original research published in the September 2016 issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology. In fact, the study found, the U.S. ranked 30th among the 31 Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development countries reporting maternal morbidity data, ahead only of Mexico. Studying this subject had been difficult for many years because of "significant" underreporting of maternal deaths, the authors said. This resulted in the addition of an item to U.S. death certificates in 2003 asking several questions regarding whether or not a woman was pregnant at the time of death; in the 42 days before her death; or in the year preceding her death. The World Health Organization defines maternal death as "the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the duration and the site of the pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management, but not from accident or incidental causes." The raw, unadjusted data revealed that the U.S. mortality rate more than doubled between 2000 and 2014, from 9.8 to 21.5 deaths per 100,000 live births.

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