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
Bleeding Excessive Uterine Bleeding at Delivery Excessive bleeding from the uterus refers to loss of more than 2 pints of blood or symptoms of significant blood loss that occur within 24 hours of delivery. After the baby is delivered, excessive... read more (hemorrhage), which accounts for over one fourth of deaths
High blood pressure, including preeclampsia Preeclampsia and Eclampsia Preeclampsia is new high blood pressure or worsening of existing high blood pressure that is accompanied by excess protein in the urine and that develops after the 20th week of pregnancy. Eclampsia... read more (a type of high blood pressure that develops during pregnancy)
Abortion Abortion Induced abortion is the intentional ending of a pregnancy by surgery or drugs. A pregnancy may be ended by surgically removing the contents of the uterus or by taking certain drugs. Complications... read more or miscarriage Miscarriage A miscarriage is the loss of a fetus before 20 weeks of pregnancy. Miscarriages may occur because of a problem in the fetus (such as a genetic disorder or birth defect) or in the woman (such... read more
An abnormally located pregnancy (ectopic pregnancy Ectopic Pregnancy Ectopic pregnancy is attachment (implantation) of a fertilized egg in an abnormal location, such as the fallopian tubes. In an ectopic pregnancy, the fetus cannot survive. When an ectopic pregnancy... read more )—that is, one not in its usual location in the uterus
Disorders that women had before they became pregnant (such as obesity and infectious diseases, including HIV infection)
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 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
Disorders in the mother, such as high blood pressure High Blood Pressure High blood pressure (hypertension) is persistently high pressure in the arteries. Often no cause for high blood pressure can be identified, but sometimes it occurs as a result of an underlying... read more , a serious bodywide response to an infection (sepsis Sepsis and Septic Shock Sepsis is a serious bodywide response to bacteremia or another infection plus malfunction or failure of an essential system in the body. Septic shock is life-threatening low blood pressure ... read more ), and abortion
Abnormalities in the placenta—one that detaches too soon (placental abruption Placental Abruption Placental abruption is the premature detachment of the placenta from the wall of the uterus, usually after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Women may have abdominal pain and tenderness and vaginal bleeding... read more ) or is mislocated (placenta previa Placenta Previa Placenta previa is attachment (implantation) of the placenta over the opening of the cervix, in the lower rather than the upper part of the uterus. Women may have painless, sometimes profuse... read more )
Genetic abnormalities in the fetus
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.