Pregnancy-related death, maternal death and maternal mortality

There are nearly 4 million births every year in the United States. Although most pregnancies and births go smoothly, some do not. Sadly, some women die from pregnancy-related causes. You may have heard about pregnancy-related death or maternal death (also called maternal mortality) in the news lately. Although pregnancy-related death and maternal death have similar meanings, they are not the same thing. So what’s the difference?

Pregnancy-related death is when a woman dies during pregnancy or within 1 year after the end of her pregnancy from health problems related to pregnancy.

Maternal death is when a woman dies during pregnancy or up to 42 days after the end of pregnancy from health problems related to pregnancy.

How common is pregnancy-related death?

The good news is that pregnancy-related death is not very common. About 700 women die each year from pregnancy-related problems. While only a small number of women are affected, this continues to be a serious problem. Unfortunately, pregnancy-related death in this country has increased over the last 25 years and continues to rise.

What causes pregnancy-related death and who is at risk?

Pregnancy-related death and maternal death may be caused by:

  • A health condition (like heart disease) that you had before pregnancy that gets worse because of pregnancy
  • A pregnancy complication, like preeclampsia (a serious condition that affects blood pressure that can happen after the 20th week of pregnancy or after giving birth). Other complications include infection (illness caused by bad germs) and hemorrhage (heavy bleeding).
  • Treatment you get during pregnancy

In the United States, women age 35 to 39 are about 2 times as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes as women age 20 to 24. The risk for women who are 40 and older is even higher. Some racial groups are at higher risk as well. For

What can you do to reduce your risk?

Getting regular health care before, during and after pregnancy helps you and your health care provider find out about health problems that can put you at risk. Learning warning signs of complications can help you get early treatment and may prevent death.

Always trust your instincts. If you’re worried about your health or your pregnancy or if you have signs or symptoms of conditions that can cause problems during pregnancy, call your provider right away or go to the hospital.

March of Dimes supports efforts to eliminate preventable maternal mortality and the unacceptably large disparities in rates experienced by black women. To learn more visit



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