The study analyzed the cases of about 1,000 women who died between 2017 and 2019 due to pregnancy or related complications up to one year after giving birth, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said. “The report paints a much clearer picture of pregnancy-related deaths in this country,” said Wanda Barfield, director of the CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health. About 22% of deaths occurred during pregnancy, 25% on the day of birth or in the following week, and 53% up to a year later. The main cause identified in 23% of cases was mental health problems, including suicide or drug overdose, followed by bleeding (14%) and heart problems (13%).
The deaths were analyzed by local expert committees, including gynecologists and mental health specialists, who were tasked with formulating recommendations. A death is considered preventable if there was “at least a likelihood” that it could have been avoided by “one or more reasonable changes” in the health care system or by the patient or his community. Among the measures recommended to address the problem are expanding access to health insurance, improving prenatal and postnatal care, and better transportation options to access care. Maternal mortality in the U.S. has been rising for years and ranks the country among the worst among developed nations. In 2020, it stood at 23.8 deaths per 100,000 births, according to data released in February 2022.