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The State of Pregnancy-Related Deaths In 2024

Charles M. Carlsen

Published May 27, 2024
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Pregnancy can be demanding, but it also is the happiest period of many womens’ lives. Unfortunately, what many women thought would end with them holding their newborns ends in tragedy: death!
Sometimes, many of these women may survive even after the labour period but would continue to experience pregnancy complications and hardships. In the U.S. alone, these complications each year kill a few thousand more women.
Let’s take a look at a definition and find out what we can do about it.

Definition of Pregnancy-Related Death

The simplest definition of pregnancy-related death is any time a woman dies while she's pregnant, whether the deaths occur during labour or after one year of it. In addition, the CDC defines pregnancy-related deaths as the death of a woman during pregnancy or long after childbirth from any cause related to the immediate or extended complications of her condition.
So, a woman might die whether she survived till after the delivery, but if complications arise through it and she passes away within one year of her delivery, again, that is considered a pregnancy-related death. In addition, due to these direct and indirect complications, women's previous illnesses can also be exacerbated. These might also lead to death.
They are deaths from causes that, in many cases, were pregnancy-related, though not all direct maternal deaths or the result of complications of pregnancy itself.

Current Statistics on Pregnancy-Related Deaths in the United States

Births that result in death are still a massive burden here in the U.S.—our mortality rates are worse than in other developing countries. Women who died of pregnancy-related causes in 2021, according to the CDC, was 1,205—the highest in 50 years.
One way to think of it is this: if 3,000 mothers die each year out of roughly 90,000 live births, then that’s a mortality rate of around about 33 deaths per 100,000 live births. The sad news is, that number hasn't changed much in 2024.
But, it should be a call to action for Americans who have the capacity to address this problem of death and complications due to childbirth. The good news is that pregnant women who are going to give birth soon also have many influencing factors within their scope of influence.

Preventive Measures for Women

The government is working hard behind the scenes to stop more women from dying during childbirth or due to complications afterwards. But while that’s an ongoing process—one which may not bear tangible fruits in a while—there are other factors in your control which can help you avoid pregnancy-related death or complications.
Here they are:
Maintaining a Balanced Diet and Healthy Weight
The most important thing a newly pregnant woman can do to maximise her survival in labour is simply this: eat a good diet. This is a good practice not only for the woman but also for the growing foetus. However, you should consult your doctor on what you can and cannot eat. In general:
  • Take foods rich in Folate, Iron, Calcium and Protein-rich food. You’ll get those from leafy greens as well, along with lean meats, whole grains and dairy.
  • Have water (not fruit juices or soft drinks) throughout the day.
  • Include salmon, sardines and walnuts in your diet.
Regular Physical Activity
It is vital to have body exercise before and during pregnancy for one’s health. The reasons are healthy development of the body and maintenance in shape as desired. In these cases, one should be specific in the kind of exercise that should be opted for while in pregnancy. Also, always consult a specialist.
Avoiding Substance Use
Smoking and use of most commonly used illicit drugs and alcohol greatly increase the chances of miscarriages as well as the spread of birth defects. Steer clear and always do your best to be or live/ stay in smoke-free areas.

Conclusion

While pregnancy-related deaths are heartbreaking from a public health standpoint, the good news is that most or all of them are avoidable.
We can eliminate nearly all of these deaths by ensuring that women adopt healthy lifestyles prior to pregnancy, receive preconception counselling and expanded comprehensive prenatal care, optimal treatment for chronic medical conditions before conception and during pregnancy, and improved access to appropriate follow-up postpartum. We also need to address racial disparities in access to quality healthcare.
We all need to have a role to play in this multi-dimensional challenge, across individuals, communities, and health systems. We must empower women to make these informed decisions about their health and ensure healthcare providers are trained to provide culturally competent, high-quality care.

Sources

1. Fudin, H. R., Babin, J. L., Hong, L. T., Ku, J., May, A. L., Wisner, A., Hall, F. S., & Ray, S. D. (2018). Drugs of abuse. In Side effects of drugs annual (pp. 29–89).

2. House, W. (2021, December 7). Remarks by Vice President Harris at the Maternal Day of Action Summit. The White House.

3. Indicator Metadata Registry details. (n.d.).

4. Preventing Pregnancy-Related deaths. (2024, May 15). Maternal Mortality Prevention.

5. ‌What is maternal mortality? (A guide) | Mass General Brigham. (2024, April 15).
Article by
Charles M. Carlsen
Hello! I'm Charles, As co-founder of Drsono, I contribute to the DRSONO blog, providing valuable insights and up-to-date information on ultrasound technology and diagnostic imaging.

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