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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

BU Finds U.S. Maternal Mortality Rates Higher Than Reported

Despite the United Nations Millennium Development Goal of a 75 percent reduction in maternal deaths by 2015, the estimated maternal mortality rate for 48 U.S. states and the District of Columbia actually increased by 26.6 percent from 2000 to 2014, according to a new study co-authored by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers.

The study, published online in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, found that the estimated maternal mortality rate in the U.S., excluding California and Texas, was 23.8 per 100,000 live births in 2014 — up from 18.8 in 2000.

The study found that earlier estimates significantly underreported maternal deaths, largely because of delays in some states’ adoption of a “pregnancy question” on standard death certificates. Because of those delays and resulting discrepancies, the U.S. has not published an official maternal mortality rate since 2007, the researchers said.

“The current maternal mortality rate places the United States far behind other industrialized nations,” said study co-author Dr. Eugene Declercq, professor of community health sciences. “There is a need to redouble efforts to prevent maternal deaths and improve maternity care for the four million U.S. women giving birth each year.”

Dr. Declercq and colleagues noted that the World Health Organization has reported that 157 of 183 countries have shown decreases in their maternal mortality rates since 2000. The current estimated U.S. rate is comparable to that of Iran and Ukraine, they said. And among 31 industrialized countries, only Mexico has a poorer rate.

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