More women die from pregnancy complications in the United States than in any other developed country. The United States is the only industrialized nation with a rising maternal mortality rate.
Those 2 sentences should stop us all in our tracks.
In fact, the United States ranks 47th globally with the worst maternal mortality rate. More than half these deaths are likely preventable, with suicide and drug overdose the leading causes of maternal death in many states. All this occurs despite our advanced medical system, premier medical colleges and universities, embrace of high-tech medical advances, and high percentage of gross domestic product spent on health care.
Need more numbers? According to a 2016 report in Obstetrics and Gynecology, the United States saw a 26% increase in the maternalmortality rate (unadjusted) in only 15 years: from 18.8 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2000 to 23.8 in 2014 (FIGURE 1).1
This problem received federal attention when, in 2000, the US Department of Health and Human Services launched Healthy People 2010. That health promotion and disease prevention agenda set a goal of reducing maternal mortality to 3.3 deaths per 100,000 live births by 2010, a goal clearly not met.
Considerable variations by race and by state
The racial disparities in maternal mortality are staggering and have not improved in more than 20 years: African American women are 3.4 times more likely to die than non-Hispanic white women of pregnancy-related complications. In 2011–2013, the maternal mortality ratio for non-Hispanic white women was 12.7 deaths per 100,000 live births compared with 43.5 deaths for non-Hispanic black women (FIGURE 2).2 American Indian or Alaska Native women, Asian women, and some Latina women also experience higher rates than non-Hispanic white women. The rate for American Indian or Alaska Native women is 16.9 deaths per 100,000 live births.3
Some states are doing better than others, showing that there is nothing inevitable about the maternal mortality crisis. Texas, for example, has seen the highest rate of maternal mortality increase. Its rate doubled from 2010 to 2012, while California reduced its maternal death rate by 30%, from 21.5 to 15.1, during roughly the same period.1
This is a challenge of epic proportions, and one that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), under the leadership of President Haywood Brown, MD, and Incoming President Lisa Hollier, MD, is determined to meet, ensuring that a high maternal death rate does not become our nation’s new normal.
Dr. Brown put it this way, “ACOG collaborative initiatives such as Levels of Maternal Care (LOMC) and implementation of OB safety bundles for hemorrhage, hypertension, and thromboembolism through the AIM [Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health] Program target maternal morbidity and mortality at the community level. Bundles have also been developed to address the disparity in maternal mortality and for the opiate crisis.”
ACOG is making strides in putting in place nationwide meaningful, evidence-driven systems and care approaches that are proven to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity, saving mothers’ lives and keeping families whole.