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CDC: Most Pregnancy-Related Maternal Deaths Are Preventable


In a previous blog, we discussed alarmingly high rates of maternal deaths in U.S. hospitals, and how more mothers die from childbirth and pregnancy-related complications in America than any other developed nation in the world. According to a CDC report released on Tuesday, May 7, 2019, most of those deaths are preventable.

Researchers’ Findings

Researchers behind the new report focused on pregnancy-related complications, which the CDC defines broadly as any maternal death which occurs: (1) during pregnancy, or (2) within 1 year of pregnancy, and which is caused by:

  • Pregnancy-related complication;
  • Adverse health events triggered by pregnancy; or
  • Unrelated medical conditions aggravated by pregnancy.

In its study, CDC researchers reviewed national data on maternal deaths which fit these criteria. Here are some of their key findings:

  • Roughly 700 women die each year in the U.S. as a result of pregnancy-related complications;
  • Over the five-year period reviewed by researchers (2011-2014), there were over 3,400 pregnancy-related maternal deaths in the U.S.;
  • In approximately 60% of the cases (3 out of 5), maternal deaths could have been prevented, in part, with adequate medical intervention and better access to quality care.

A Closer Look at Maternal Death in America

The CDC notes the findings make it clear health care providers can and should do more to protect mothers at all stages of pregnancy and childbirth. Over the years, growing data has alerted the health care industry to the maternal death problem, but details provided in the new CDC report offer key insights that may help further collective understanding and ways to address it.

As experts noted in a recent article from The Washington Post, more details about underlying causes of pregnancy-related deaths are crucial to creating meaningful interventions. Per the CDC, there are some factors worth focusing on:

  • Timing – The CDC report compiled data on when mothers succumbed to pregnancy-related complications, and found that nearly 1/3 of maternal deaths occurred during pregnancy, and another 1/3 during the process of childbirth or within a week after (postpartum). The remaining third of pregnancy-related deaths occurred weeks or even months after mothers had given birth, with 21% between 7 and 41 days after birth, and roughly 11% after that, up to 1 year.
  • Causes – According to the CDC, pregnancy-related deaths varied by timing. Generally, however, roughly a third of the deaths were caused by cardiovascular conditions, which include stroke and heart disease. Close to 13% resulted from infections, and 11% from hemorrhage.
  • Contributing factors – Researchers identified a number of contributing factors, many of which are preventable, behind the deaths. These includes insufficient access to quality health care, diagnostic errors (failure to diagnose / missed diagnoses), and warning signs which were not identified and / or addressed with proper pregnancy and prenatal care. Access to care was a particularly enlightening factor, as researchers found Native American and African American mothers were roughly three times as likely as white mothers to die from pregnancy-related issues.

As important as the data is to unearthing critical details, its potential for prompting meaningful change will remain a question. That’s because hospitals and health care providers are ultimately responsible for implementing changes and interventions which change the status quo, and stem the tide of the tragic toll pregnancy-related death has taken on U.S. families.

Ohio Medical Malpractice Lawyers Serving Families Nationwide

The Becker Law Firm is a Cleveland based trial practice that’s become known for our work in personal injury and wrongful death cases – particularly in those involving medical malpractice and birth injuries. Our attorneys handle birth injury cases nationwide, and are available to speak with victims and families who’d like more information about their legal rights and options following birth-related injuries and wrongful death to mothers.

Contact us to speak with a lawyer. Consultations are free and confidential.

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