Women's Health USA 2007
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Health Status > Maternal Health
Maternal Morbidity and Risk Factors in Pregnancy

Maternal morbidity refers to diseases or conditions that arise during pregnancy. Since 1989 (the year these data became available from birth certificates), diabetes and hypertension have been the most commonly reported conditions. Both chronic and gestational (developing only during pregnancy) diabetes may pose health risks to the mother and infant. Babies born to mothers with diabetes can have birth defects. These babies may also be premature or stillborn, or very large at birth.1 In 2004, diabetes during pregnancy occurred at a rate of 35.8 per 1,000 live births. There was little variation among racial and ethnic groups.

Hypertension during pregnancy can be either chronic in nature or limited to the duration of the pregnancy. Severe hypertension during pregnancy can result in preeclampsia, fetal growth restriction, premature birth, placental abruption, and stillbirth.2 Chronic hypertension was present in 9.6 of every 1,000 live births in 2004, and was noticeably more prevalent among non-Hispanic Black women than non-Hispanic White and Hispanic women. The rate of pregnancy-associated hypertension was even higher, occurring in 37.9 of every 1,000 live births. Rates were comparable between non-Hispanic White and non-Hispanic Black women, but were lower among Hispanic women.

Other illnesses or risk factors during pregnancy can include eclampsia, which involves seizures (usually preceded by a diagnosis of preeclampsia), hydramnios and oligohydramnios, which are too much and too little amniotic fluid, respectively, and incompetent cervix, which can result in preterm birth. All of these conditions are more prevalent among non-Hispanic Black women than non-Hispanic White and Hispanic women.

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diabetes and pregnancy FAQs. Available from: http://www.cdc.gov/NCBDDD/pregnancy_gateway/diabetes-gestational.html. Viewed 4/18/07.

2 U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Evidence Report/Technology Assessment Number 14: Management of chronic hypertension during pregnancy. Publication #00E011; 2000 Aug.


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Women's Health USA 2007 is not copyrighted. Readers are free to duplicate and use all or part of the information contained on this page. Suggested Citation: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Women's Health USA 2007. Rockville, Maryland: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2007.