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CDC study: More than 80% of pregnancy-related deaths are preventable

Sep 20, 2022


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a study showing more than 80% of pregnancy-related deaths may be preventable. The study looked at 1,018 pregnancy-related deaths in 36 states between 2017 and 2019. Out of those deaths, preventability could be determined in 996. 839 of those 996 deaths (84.2%) were determined to be preventable.

“The report paints a much clearer picture of pregnancy-related deaths in this country,” Dr. Wanda Barfield, the director of CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health at the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, said in a statement. “The majority of pregnancy-related deaths were preventable, highlighting the need for quality improvement initiatives in states, hospitals, and communities that ensure all people who are pregnant or postpartum get the right care at the right time.”

The CDC study, released Monday, also revealed some of the top underlying conditions of pregnancy-related deaths. Out of the 987 deaths where an underlying cause was identified, the six most frequent causes accounted for 75% of the deaths. These causes include:

  • Mental health conditions (22.7%)
  • Hemorrhage (13.7%)
  • Cardiac and coronary conditions (12.8%)
  • Infection (9.2%)
  • Thrombotic embolism (8.7%)
  • Cardiomyopathy (8.5%)

“Leading underlying cause of death varied by race and ethnicity,” the CDC said in its report. “Cardiac and coronary conditions were the leading underlying cause of pregnancy-related deaths among non-Hispanic Black persons; mental health conditions were the leading underlying cause of death among Hispanic and non-Hispanic White persons; and hemorrhage was the leading underlying cause of death among non-Hispanic Asian persons.”

Another interesting aspect of the CDC study was the timing in which pregnancy-related deaths happen. Only 21.6% of deaths happened during pregnancy, and 53.3% happened between a week and a year after birth.

“It is critical for all healthcare professionals to ask whether their patient is pregnant or has been pregnant in the last year to inform diagnosis and treatment decisions,” the CDC said. “Healthcare systems, communities, families, and other support systems need to be aware of the serious pregnancy-related complications that can happen during and after pregnancy. Listen to the concerns of people who are pregnant and have been pregnant during the last year and help them get the care they need.”

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