CDC: Majority of Pregnancy-Related Deaths Are Preventable

Roughly 3 in 5 pregnancy-related deaths are preventable, according to an analysis by the CDC.

In order to improve the understanding of pregnancy-related death, which occurs in approximately 700 women in the US annually, the CDC conducted an analysis of data from the Pregnancy Mortality Surveillance System for 2011-2015. Deaths were considered to be pregnancy-related if they were caused by a pregnancy complication, events initiated by pregnancy, or the aggravation of unrelated conditions by the physiologic effects of pregnancy.

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Pregnancy-related mortality ratios (PRMR) were calculated by race/ethnicity, marital status, education, and year.

Overall, the PRMR was 17.2 per 100,000 live births. PRMRs were highest among non-Hispanic black women and American Indian/Alaska Native women (42.8 and 32.5, respectively), which were 3.3 and 2.5 times as high as the PRMR for non-Hispanic white women (13.0), respectively.

Among the 87.7% of pregnancy-related deaths for which timing of death was known, 31.3% occurred during pregnancy, 16.9% occurred on the day of delivery, 18.6% occurred 1 to 6 days postpartum, 21.4% occurred 7 to 42 days postpartum, and 11.7% occurred 43 to 365 days postpartum.

Leading causes of death included cardiovascular conditions, infection, and hemorrhage, and approximately 60% of the deaths were considered preventable.

“Most pregnancy-related deaths are preventable, demonstrating the need to identify and implement strategies to address the multiple contributing factors,” they concluded.

—Michael Potts


Petersen EE, Davis NL, Goodman D, et al. Vital Signs: pregnancy-related deaths, United States, 2011–2015, and strategies for prevention, 13 states, 2013–2017 [published online May 7, 2019]. MMWR.