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
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.