Maternal mortality in US overestimated by CDC, new study shows


The number of maternal deaths previously reported by the CDC may be inaccurately rising, a study recently revealed.

Flawed or imperfect record-keeping could be the culprit for what seems to be a spiking rate of maternal deaths across the U.S.

Maternal death is defined as “the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the duration and the site of the pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management, but not from accidental or incidental causes,” according to the World Health Organization.

Common causes of maternal mortality include excessive bleeding, infection, heart disease, suicide and drug overdose.

MATERNAL DEATH RATE IS ON THE RISE IN THE US, THE CDC REPORTS

Black mothers died at the nation’s highest rate, according to a 2023 study done by the Journal of the American Medical Association. (iStock)

A study in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology found that one checkbox on death certificates may have been misused. Deaths recorded that included at least one mention of pregnancy were analyzed. Data was collected from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) from the time periods of 1999 to 2002 and 2018 to 2021 and was examined by researchers.

Specifically, researchers looked into the death certificates of women who were pregnant at or around the time of their deaths. The compared findings between these years were conclusive to “stable” deaths “at just over 10 per 100,000 live births,” according to Axios.

However, the report from the CDC recorded that there was an uptick in maternal mortality rates per live births from 2018 to 2020. In 2018, the CDC presented 17.4 deaths per 100,000 live births, 20.1 deaths per 100,000 in 2019 and 23.8 deaths per 100,000 in 2020.

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The requirements for using the checkbox changed in 2018, constraining only deaths in women ages 15 to 44 to be included. Though the deceased shown in the report still include accidental deaths, like car accidents, versus being limited to what is categorized by the WHO as maternal deaths.

And though maternal deaths may not be spiking as previously recorded by the CDC, they are a very serious public health concern across the U.S.

In 2023, Black mothers died at the nation’s highest rate, according to a study done by the Journal of the American Medical Association. In Arkansas, in 2021, a state report showed that Black women are twice as likely to experience maternal mortality than white women.

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The NCHS this week concluded that the cause of death in non-Hispanic Black women was more due to ectopic pregnancy, cardiovascular conditions and kidney and other diseases, according to Axios.

An increase in maternal death among non-Hispanic White women increased, though the report showed that fatal cardiomyopathy and other causes of death were disproportionately more common among non-Hispanic Black women.

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