Maternal Mortality

Maternal deaths are those reported on the death certificate to be related to or aggravated by pregnancy or pregnancy management that occur within 42 days after the end of the pregnancy. The maternal mortality rate has declined dramatically since 1950 when the rate was 83.3 deaths per 100,000 live births; however, the maternal mortality rate in 2005 (15.1 per 100,000 live births) was 84 percent higher than the rate reported in 1990 (8.2 per 100,000). According to the National Center for Health Statistics, this increase may largely be due to changes in how pregnancy status is recorded on death certificates; beginning in 1999, the cause of death was coded according to International Classification of Diseases, 10th Revision (ICD-10). Other methodological changes in reporting and data processing have been responsible for apparent increases in more recent years.1

In 2005, there were a total of 623 maternal deaths. This does not include the 137 deaths of women due to complications during pregnancy or childbirth after 42 days postpartum or the deaths of pregnant women due to external causes such as unintentional injury, homicide, or suicide. In 2005, the maternal mortality rate among non-Hispanic Black women (39.2 per 100,000 live births) was more than 3 times the rate among non-Hispanic White women (11.7 per 100,000) and more than 4 times the rate among Hispanic women (9.6 per 100,000).

The risk of maternal death increases with age for women of all races and ethnicities. In 2005, the maternal mortality rate was highest among women aged 35 years and older (38.0 per 100,000 live births), compared to 7.4 per 100,000 live births to women under 20 years of age and 10.7 per 100,000 live births among women aged 20–24 years.

1 National Center for Health Statistics. Health, United States, 2007 with Chartbook on Trends in the Health of Americans. Hyattsville, MD: 2007., accessed 04/01/08.

Back to Top