Maternal Mortality

Maternal Mortality Rates in California and the United States

California's maternal mortality rate was 49% higher in 2006-2008 than in 1999-2001, and then dropped slightly in 2007-2009, and  again in 2010.  No one is sure of all the reasons for this rapid and troubling increase.  In the 1990s California's rates ranged from 5.6 to 10.7 deaths per 100,000 live births, which is consistent with the overall US rate.  Beginning in 2000 the rate climbed to 10.9, then to 14.6 and in 2006 it reached nearly 17. Although the rate dropped in 2007 and 2008, these yearly fluctuations are commonly seen in reporting rare events. On average, there was a statistically significant increase in California's annual maternal mortality from 1999 to 2008.  

  The maternal mortality rate for the US was 12.7 in 2007.  The National Vital Statistics System (NVSS) will not report US maternal mortality rates until all states adopt approved data elements to capture maternal deaths on their death certificates. In 2010, the U.S. was ranked 50th among the cohort of 59 developed countries according to a WHO report.  Definitions are critically important and are reviewed on a related page.




Healthy People 2020 Objective for Maternal Infant and Children's Health (MICH)

MICH-5: Reduce the rate of maternal mortality. Target: 11.4 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. Baseline: 12.7 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births occurred in 2007. Target setting method: 10 percent improvement. California's maternal mortality rate was 49% higher in 2006-2008 than in 1999-2001.

Racial Disparity (See Graphs)

For over the past 5 decades, African American women in the US have consistently experienced a 3 to 4 times greater risk of death from pregnancy complications than  white women. (Tucker, AJPH, Feb 2007)  This increase appears to be independent of age, parity or education (OB/GYN, 2003 and MMWR 1995).  In addition, for five conditions with known rates of high pregnancy-related mortality, African American women did not have a higher prevalence, but did have a higher case-fatality rate than white women (Tucker, AJPH, Feb 2007).  In 1940, African-American women were 2.3 times more likely than White women to die from pregnancy-related causes, while in 2004-2006, African-Americans were 3.3 times more likely to die from these causes.  The African-American racial disparity is seen in other states and has had limited research.

Age Disparity (See Graphs)

Rates of maternal mortality increase with age and, except among 25-29 year olds, the rates of death for all age groups have increased since 1999.