About 1 in 3 pregnancy-related deaths occur 1 week to 1 year after delivery.
Every pregnancy-related death is tragic, especially because about 60% are preventable. Still, about 700 women die each year from complications of pregnancy. A pregnancy-related death can happen during pregnancy, at delivery, and even up to a year afterward (postpartum).
- about 1/3 of deaths (31%) happened during pregnancy;
- about 1/3 (36%) happened at delivery or in the week after; and
- about 1/3 (33%) happened 1 week to 1 year postpartum.
- Heart disease and stroke caused more than 1 in 3 deaths (34%). Other leading causes of death included infections and severe bleeding.
- Black and American Indian/Alaska Native women were about 3 times as likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause as White women.
Preventing pregnancy-related death every step of the way.
Pregnancy-related death can happen throughout pregnancy and after.
Every death reflects a web of missed opportunities.
- Factors playing a part can include:
- access to care;
- missed or delayed diagnoses;
- not recognizing warning signs.
- Most deaths are preventable, no matter when they occur.
- We can better identify and close gaps in access to quality care.
Healthcare Providers Can:
- Help patients manage chronic conditions.
- Communicate with patients about warning signs.
- Use tools to flag warning signs early so women can receive timely treatment.
Hospitals and Health Systems Can:
- Standardize coordination of care and response to emergencies.
- Improve delivery of quality prenatal and postpartum care.
- Train non-obstetric providers to consider recent pregnancy history.
States and Communities Can:
- Assess and coordinate delivery hospitals for risk-appropriate care.
- Support review of the causes behind every maternal death.
Women & Their Families Can:
- Know and communicate about symptoms of complications.
- Note pregnancy history any time medical care is received in the year after delivery.
- Heart disease and stroke cause most deaths overall.
- Obstetric emergencies, like severe bleeding and amniotic fluid embolism (when amniotic fluid enters a mother’s bloodstream), cause most deaths at delivery.
- In the week after delivery, severe bleeding, high blood pressure and infection are most common.
- Cardiomyopathy (weakened heart muscle) is the leading cause of deaths 1 week to 1 year after delivery.
Related Pages and Resources
- Vital Signs: Press Release – Pregnancy-related deaths happen before, during, and up to a year after delivery [English]
- Vital Signs: Press Release – Las muertes relacionadas con el embarazo ocurren antes, durante y hasta un año después del parto [Spanish]
- Vital Signs: Pregnancy-Related Deaths, United States, 2011–2015, and Strategies for Prevention, 13 States, 2013–2017, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR)
- Pregnancy-related Deaths
- Severe Maternal Morbidity in the United States
- Pregnancy Complications
- Depression Among Women
- Perinatal Quality Collaboratives
- CDC Levels of Care Assessment Tool (CDC LOCATe)
- CDC Grand Rounds: Meeting the Challenges of Measuring and Preventing Maternal Mortality in the United States
- Building U.S. Capacity to Review and Prevent Maternal Deaths
- Review to Action
- National Network of Perinatal Quality Collaboratives
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG): Eliminate Preventable Maternal Mortality
- ACOG Committee Opinion No. 736: Optimizing Postpartum Care
- Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs (AMCHP) – Maternal Health
- Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN): Post-birth Warning Signs Checklist [92 KB, 1 page]
- Council on Patient Safety in Women’s Health Care Patient Safety Bundles
- Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) – Maternal Morbidity & Mortality
- Preeclampsia Foundation
Science Behind the Issue
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1600 Clifton Road NE
Atlanta, GA 30333
Publication date: May 7, 2019