U.S. Maternal Death Rates Remain Unnecessarily High

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that rate at which women die due to pregnancy and childbirth complications has not declined in the past 15 years, and remains at 7 or 8 per 100,000 births. The CDC reports that half of these deaths are preventable with regular prenatal care.

Maternal death rates often reflect the overall quality of health care in a given locality. For instance, in developing countries, where access to quality medical care is scarce, maternal death rates can be as high as 1,700 for every 100,000 births. Conversely, in countries with excellent health care, like Norway and Switzerland, the maternal death rate averages only about 3 or 4 per 100,000 births.

Racism also plays a role. In the U.S., maternal deaths among black women, who are less likely than white women to receive adequate medical treatment and preventative care, ranged from 18-22 per 100,000 births, compared to 6 per 100,000 among whites.


AP - September 4, 1998