CDC: 3 out of 5 pregnancy-related deaths in US are preventable

Hadas Kuznits
May 09, 2019 - 2:22 pm

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A new report released this week by the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention found that three out of five pregnancy-related deaths in America are preventable. 

Jefferson University Hospital maternal-fetal medicine specialist Dr. Jason Baxter, who also serves on the Philadelphia and Pennsylvania Maternal Mortality Review boards, said the report serves as a guide as to how outcomes can be improved.

"Communication with and access to high-risk care providers prior to and during pregnancy are ways that deaths in women with those conditions can be prevented," he said.

The report cites heart disease, stroke, infections and severe bleeding as some of the reasons why women die in pregnancy — and up to a year postpartum. But Baxter said there are other issues, too, that are not listed by the CDC.

"Part of it is related to social determinants of health and related to poverty, related to systematic racism, frankly," he said. "Poverty plays a big role, social issues, mental health, suicides and homicides. None of those things are addressed in this report."


The U.S. currently has the highest rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease, and similarly, Baxter said the U.S. also has higher rates of caesarian deliveries. 

He said some women aren't getting the proper care or seeing the specialists they need to see, which may be part of the reason the U.S. has the highest maternal death rate of all developed countries.

"Many other countries with their universal health care do a better job of treating health care as a universal right," he added. "That's not the case in this country."

Better funding for women's health initiatives and research would improve outcomes, he noted. While Baxter recognizes that the report focuses on the hundreds of women who needlessly die each year, he said this report is just the tip of the iceberg.

"There are literally thousands of women in this country each year who suffer from severe maternal morbidity," he added, "in other words, near misses."