Master Class

Managing maternal mortality with multifetal pregnancy reduction


For over 2 years, the world has reeled from the COVID-19 pandemic. Life has changed dramatically, priorities have been re-examined, and the collective approach to health care has shifted tremendously. While concerns regarding coronavirus and its variants are warranted, another “pandemic” is ravaging the world and has yet to be fully addressed: pregnancy-related maternal mortality.

The rate of pregnancy-related deaths in the United States is unconscionable. Compared with other developed nations – such as Germany, the United Kingdom, and Canada – we lag far behind. Data published in 2020 showed that the rate of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in the United States was 17.4, more than double that of France (8.7 deaths per 100,000 live births),1 the country with the next-highest rate. Americans like being first – first to invent the light bulb, first to perform a successful solid organ xenotransplantation, first to go to the moon – but holding “first place” in maternal mortality is not something we should wish to maintain.

Ob.gyns. have long raised the alarm regarding the exceedingly high rates of pregnancy-related deaths in the United States. While there have been many advances in antenatal care to reduce these severe adverse events – improvements in surveillance and data reporting, maternal-focused telemedicine services, multidisciplinary care team models, and numerous research initiatives by federal and nonprofit organizations2 – the recent wave of legislation restricting reproductive choice may also have the unintended consequence of further increasing the rate of pregnancy-related maternal morbidity and mortality.3

While we have an obligation to provide our maternal and fetal patients with the best possible care, under some circumstances, that care may require prioritizing the mother’s health above all else.

To discuss the judicious use of multifetal pregnancy reduction, we have invited Dr. Joanne Stone, The Ellen and Howard C. Katz Chairman’s Chair, and Dr. Chelsea DeBolt, clinical fellow in maternal-fetal medicine, both in the Raquel and Jaime Gilinski Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Science at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Dr. Reece, who specializes in maternal-fetal medicine, is executive vice president for medical affairs at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, as well as the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and dean of the school of medicine. He is the medical editor of this column. He said he had no relevant financial disclosures. Contact him at


1. Tikkanen R et al. The Commonwealth Fund. Nov 2020. doi: 10.26099/411v-9255

2. Ahn R et al. Ann Intern Med. 2020;173(11 Suppl):S3-10. doi: 10.7326/M19-3258.

3. Pabayo R et al. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020;17(11):3773. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17113773.

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