Preventing Pregnancy-Related Deaths

Key points

  • A death during or within 1 year of the end of pregnancy is a tragedy for a family, a community, and for society. This is especially true since most of these deaths are preventable.
  • Health care providers can help patients prepare for pregnancy and for potential problems during pregnancy.
  • CDC is working to prevent pregnancy-related deaths.
Mother holding infant.

What is a pregnancy-related death?

A pregnancy-related death is defined as a death during pregnancy or within 1 year of the end of pregnancy from a pregnancy complication, a chain of events initiated by pregnancy, or the aggravation of an unrelated condition by the physiologic effects of pregnancy. The death may happen because:

  • The pregnancy causes a new medical (including mental) health problem.
  • The pregnancy starts a chain of events that lead to death.
  • The pregnancy makes an unrelated condition worse.

More than 80% of pregnancy-related deaths are preventable.‎

A death is preventable if there was at least some chance it could have been avoided with reasonable changes to patient, family, provider, facility, system, and/or community factors.

What factors contribute to pregnancy-related deaths?

Social factors are nonmedical conditions where people live, work, and play that can affect their health. Factors like income and access to high-quality care, for example, can affect a person's ability to manage conditions that increase maternal risk, like high blood pressure or diabetes. For more information on health disparities, which are preventable differences in the burden of disease, injury, and violence, please visit CDC's Health Equity website.

Starting prenatal care early, seeing a health care provider throughout the pregnancy, and being sure to attend postpartum visits can help to prevent and treat severe pregnancy-related complications.

Health care providers can help patients prepare for delivery and for any potential problems during pregnancy. Health care providers can listen for and share the urgent maternal warning signs that need immediate attention.

What is CDC doing to prevent pregnancy-related deaths?

CDC is committed to preventing pregnancy-related deaths and ensuring the best possible birth outcomes. CDC is engaged or supports the following activities:

Vital Signs cover, medical exam of pregnant woman
Saving lives by addressing risk factors before, during, and after pregnancy.

Pregnancy-related deaths can occur before, during, and after pregnancy.

  • Trost SL, Beauregard J, Njie F, et al. Pregnancy-Related Deaths: Data from Maternal Mortality Review Committees in 36 US States, 2017–2019. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, US Department of Health and Human Services; 2022.