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Pregnancy-Related Deaths

vector image of a pregnant womanThe death of a woman during pregnancy, at delivery, or soon after delivery is a tragedy for her family and for society as a whole. Sadly, over 600 women die each year in the United States as a result of pregnancy or delivery complications.

During pregnancy, a woman's body goes through many changes. These changes are entirely normal, but may become very important in case there are complications or problems. A pregnancy-related death is defined as the death of a woman during pregnancy or within one 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.

What can women do to prevent a pregnancy-related death?

Many factors influence pregnancy-related health outcomes. It is important for all women of reproductive age to adopt healthy lifestyles (e.g., maintain a healthy diet and weight, be physically active, quit all substance use for good, prevent injuries) and address any health problems before getting pregnant. Visit your health care provider at recommended scheduled time periods to discuss if or when you are thinking about getting pregnant. This is important to make sure you receive appropriate medical advice and care, and have healthy pregnancies.

A healthy pregnancy begins before conception and continues with prenatal care, with early recognition and management of complications if they arise. Health care providers can help women prepare for pregnancy and for any potential problems during pregnancy. Early initiation of prenatal care by pregnant women, and continuous monitoring of pregnancy by health providers, are key to preventing pregnancy-related complications and death.

What is CDC doing?

CDC is committed to preventing pregnancy-related deaths, and ensuring the best possible birth outcomes. CDC conducts national pregnancy-related mortality surveillance to better understand the risk factors for and causes of pregnancy-related deaths in the United States. Findings are released regularly in the scientific literature and on the CDC Web site. In addition, CDC scientists provide technical assistance and guidance to U.S. states to—

  • Review pregnancy-related deaths.
  • Understand the medical and nonmedical causes of pregnancy-related deaths.
  • Identify gaps in health services.
  • Make recommendations to prevent future deaths and take appropriate action.
Learn more about CDC’s Pregnancy Mortality Surveillance System.