U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration

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Maternal Mortality

The rate of maternal mortality in the United States declined dramatically over the last century; however, an increase in the rate has become evident in the past several decades. In 2006, the maternal mortality rate was 13.3 deaths per 100,000 live births, compared to a low of 6.6 in 1987. Some of this increase may be due to changes in the coding and classification of maternal deaths.

In 2006, there were a total of 569 maternal deaths (those resulting from complications during pregnancy, childbirth, or direct or indirect obstetric causes up to 42 days after delivery or termination of pregnancy). The maternal mortality rate among non-Hispanic Black women was more than 3 times the rate among non-Hispanic White women (34.8 versus 9.1 per 100,000).

The risk of maternal death increases with age, regardless of race or ethnicity. In 2006, the maternal mortality rate of women aged 35 years and over (29.3 per 100,000) was nearly 3 times the rate of women aged 20-24 years (10.2 per 100,000) and nearly 6 times the rate of women under 20 years of age (5.0 per 100,000).

Causes of maternal death are classified as direct, indirect, or unspecified. Some of the most common direct causes include complications related to the puerperium, or period immediately after delivery (2.6 per 100,000), eclampsia and preclampsia (1.3 per 100,000), and hemorrhage (0.9 per 100,000). Indirect causes occurred at a rate of 3.0 per 100,000 in 2006, and comprised deaths from pre-existing conditions complicated by pregnancy.

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