Nearly 1,000 American Women Die During Childbirth Every Year, CDC Says

The deaths are largely preventable—and largely impacting minority communities.

By: Amanda Mushro
Doctor listening to belly of pregnant woman


Doctor listening to belly of pregnant woman

Photo by: JGI/Jamie Grill

JGI/Jamie Grill

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has eye-opening data about the health and wellness of women giving birth in America. According to the report, mothers are dying before, during and up to a year after giving birth—often of complications that could be prevented. For every five women who die in the United States from pregnancy and childbirth, three could have been saved if they had received better medical care.

The CDC report says an average of 700 women die each year from pregnancy complications and nearly 60 percent of those mothers could have been saved. While heart disease and stroke caused more than one in three deaths, infections, severe bleeding and high blood pressure were also listed among the causes of fatality in new mothers. Cardiomyopathy, or weakened heart muscles, is the leading cause of death one week to one year after delivery.

The report further states that Black and American Indian/Alaska Native women are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related issues than white women.

These findings have a lot of women asking how this high rate of death can still occur in America in 2019. The CDC cites a lack of healthcare access, overlooked warning signs and receiving incorrect or missed diagnoses.

"Our new analysis underscores the need for access to quality services, risk awareness and early diagnosis, but it also highlights opportunities for preventing future pregnancy-related deaths," said Wanda Barfield, director of the CDC's reproductive health division.

Here’s how the CDC says doctors and healthcare workers can ensure moms are getting the care they need before, during and after giving birth:

During Pregnancy

The access to and delivery of quality prenatal care, which includes managing chronic conditions and expanding education about warning signs, needs to be improved.

At Delivery

Patient care should be standardized by delivering high-risk women at hospitals with specialized providers and equipment.


High-quality care for mothers should be provided up to one year after birth, which includes communicating with patients about warning signs and connecting them to follow-up care.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists released new guidelines saying women should have a comprehensive heart-risk evaluation 12 weeks after giving birth. However, they acknowledge that up to 40 percent of women often don't return for this visit because of soaring medical costs and a lack of time off from work.

Advice to moms and moms-to-be: As a mother, you're focused on taking care of your children, but listening to your body, taking care of yourself and having access to appropriate and high-quality care is critical.

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