The findings of a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that 53% of the deaths analyzed occurred postpartum, between seven days and one year after pregnancy. The leading underlying cause of death was mental health conditions.
Wanda Barfield, director of CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health at the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, said in a statement that the report paints a much clearer picture of pregnancy-related deaths in the U.S.
“The majority of pregnancy-related deaths were preventable, highlighting the need for quality improvement initiatives in states, hospitals and communities that ensure all people who are pregnant or postpartum get the right care at the right time,” Barfield said.
The report analyzed more than 1,000 deaths in 36 states from 2017 to 2019. Other underlying causes of death, which varied by race and ethnicity, included hemorrhaging and cardiac and coronary conditions.
Cardiac and coronary conditions were the leading underlying cause of deaths among non-Hispanic Black people, mental health conditions for Hispanic and non-Hispanic White people, and hemorrhage for non-Hispanic Asian people.
American Indian or Alaska Native people were found to be disproportionally impacted, with 93% of deaths identified as preventable. Mental health conditions and hemorrhage were the most common underlying causes of death, accounting for 50% of deaths with a known underlying cause.
The CDC in its statement emphasized the importance of postpartum care to help prevent deaths.
“Healthcare systems, communities, families, and other support systems need to be aware of the serious pregnancy-related complications that can happen during and after pregnancy,” the CDC said. “Listen to the concerns of people who are pregnant and have been pregnant during the last year and help them get the care they need.”
The data was compiled by Maternal Mortality Review Committees, which are groups that meet to review deaths and identify recommendations to prevent future fatalities. The report was the first information to be released under a CDC-funded program meant to support the committees.