Maternal deaths are those reported on the death certificate to be related to or aggravated by pregnancy or pregnancy management and which occur during or 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 2007 (12.7 per 100,000 live births) was 55 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, including question formatting and revisions to the U.S. Standard Certificate of Death.1
In 2007, there were a total of 548 maternal deaths. This does not include 221 deaths of women that were due to complications during pregnancy or childbirth and that occurred after 42 days postpartum or the deaths of pregnant women due to external causes such as unintentional injury, homicide, or suicide. In 2007, the maternal mortality rate among non-Hispanic Black women (28.4 per 100,000 live births) was roughly 3 times the rates among non-Hispanic White and Hispanic women (10.5 and 8.9 per 100,000, respectively).
The risk of maternal death increases with age for women of all races and ethnicities. In 2007, the maternal mortality rate was highest among women aged 35 years and older (32.3 per 100,000 live births), compared to 7.1 per 100,000 live births to women under 20 years of age and 8.1 per 100,000 live births among women aged 20–24 years. There was little variation in maternal mortality rates by age group among women aged 20–34 years.