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Maternal Mortality and Perinatal Mortality

By

Raul Artal-Mittelmark

, MD, Saint Louis University School of Medicine

Last full review/revision Sep 2022| Content last modified Sep 2022
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Maternal mortality

Maternal mortality refers to a death caused by complications of pregnancy and childbirth.

In the United States, almost 24 women died for every 100,000 deliveries in 2020. The maternal mortality rate is higher in the United States than in European countries.

However, the highest numbers of maternal deaths occur in low-resource countries. The highest rates are in sub-Saharan Africa (including Nigeria) and South Asia (including India).

In this graph, the maternal mortality ratios in different countries are compared.

Maternal mortality refers to the number of women who die because of problems related to pregnancy and who die during pregnancy or soon after delivery.

The maternal mortality ratio is the number of such deaths for every 100,000 live births (delivery of a living baby).

Data from World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, United Nations Population Fund, and The World Bank, Trends in Maternal Mortality: 2000 to 2017 WHO, Geneva, 2019.

Worldwide, maternal death rate varies greatly by race and ethnicity.

In the United States, the maternal death rates are

  • About 55 women per 100,000 deliveries in non-Hispanic Black women

  • About 19 per 100,000 in non-Hispanic White women

  • Almost 18 per 100,000 in Hispanic women

In Brazil, the maternal mortality is about 5 times higher in women of African descent than in White women. In the United Kingdom, it is higher in Black women than in White women.

Worldwide, maternal deaths may occur

  • Before delivery: 25%

  • During labor or delivery and soon after delivery: 25%

  • Later after delivery: About 30%

  • More than 42 days but less the 1 year after delivery: About 20%

The most common causes of death in pregnant women are

Problems that contribute to deaths in pregnant women include

  • When a pregnant woman has a problem, she and her family members delay seeking medical care.

  • The woman does not have transportation to a health care facility.

  • Care at a health care facility is delayed.

About 3 of 5 of maternal deaths could be prevented.

Perinatal mortality

Perinatal mortality refers to the death of fetuses and newborns that occur around the time of delivery. In 2019, the perinatal mortality rate in the United States was about 6 deaths per 1,000 deliveries.

The perinatal death rates by race and ethnicity are

  • Almost 5 per 1,000 for children of non-Hispanic White women

  • Almost 10 per 1,000 for children of non-Hispanic Black women

  • About 5 per 1,000 for children of Hispanic women

The most common causes of death in fetuses and newborns are

Characteristics of the mother that increase the risk of the death for the fetus or newborn include being much younger or older than average, smoking (past or current), and having had several pregnancies.

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