On Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Vital Statistics Reports released new data that indicates almost 700 women die from childbirth in the U.S. every year, according to CNN.
The report detailed the number of women dying from pregnancy and/or childbirth year-to-year has stayed steady, while some women are more at risk than others. In 2018, the number of women who died during pregnancy or up to 42 days after pregnancy totaled 658 — or 17.4 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.
In the report, maternal death was defined as being caused or aggravated by pregnancy or management of pregnancy and excluded death by homicide or suicide while pregnant.
The data also showed that severe disparities occurred across race and age. For example, the maternal death rate for women over the age of 40 was 81.9 deaths per 100,000 live births, while for black women, it was 37.1 deaths per 100,000 live births. In comparison, the number of maternal deaths for black women tripled that of non-Hispanic white and Hispanic women.
Dr. Janine Clayton, director of the Office of Research on Women’s Health at the National Institutes of Health, commented on the data presented in the report, remarking that it represents a landmark for this topic.
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“It gives us more evidence and more confidence that these maternal mortality rates that we’re seeing in the United States — that are still higher than those of our peer countries — truly represent a critical public health issue and serious concern for the health of women.”
The doctor went on to comment on the racial differences found in the data, calling for further research to determine the persistence of the gap and address factors that increase the risk of maternal death for certain groups.
In order for the CDC to better collect data on maternal death rates, states began revising death certificates in 2003 to include a box that indicated whether or not a woman was pregnant at or around the time of death. By 2018, all 50 states had implemented this revision.
To avoid error during analysis of death certificates, the researchers also cross reference the checked box with the cause of death reported on the certificate.
While researchers have been attempting to improve maternal mortality estimates, the report noted that the data is not without error nor does it address all issues.
Despite the difficulties with data collection, the new report confirms that the maternal death rate in the U.S. remains a public health concern. Researchers estimate that up to 60 percent of pregnancy-related deaths are preventable.