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Maternal Mortality on the Rise in US, One of Just Eight Nations Seeing the Trend

May 02, 2014 11:23 AM EDT
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The number of women who die during childbirth in the US has risen in the past decade, according to a new study, which reports that only eight nations worldwide showed the trend.

The study ranks the US among the likes of Afghanistan and Central African nations when it comes to maternal mortality, putting the US at number 60 on the list of 180 nations given a ranking on maternal death rates.

When the same research was carried out in the 1990s, the US ranked 22 on the list. China, on the other hand, rose from number 116 in the 1990s study, to number 57 in today's, which was published Friday in The Lancet medical journal.

The study reported that 18.5 women died for every 100,000 who gave birth in the US in 2013, a figure more than double what's reported in Canada and Saudi Arabia, and more than triple maternal mortality in the UK in the same time period.

Women aged 20-24 were most affected in the US, with 14 women dying for every 100,000 who gave birth in that age range. This figure is nearly double what was reported in the 1990s, according to the research.

Globally, maternal mortality rates decreased significantly between 1990 and 2013, with an overall 2.7 percent decline recorded since 2003. However, a large number of deaths did occur. In 2013, around 293,000 women died from pregnancy-related causes worldwide. In the US, that figure was 796.

"For American women, high-risk pregnancies and the number of women with inadequate access to preventive and maternal health care are just two potential causes of this trend," said study author Nicholas Kassebaum, an assistant professor at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington. "The good news is that most maternal deaths are preventable, and we can do better."

IHME Director Christopher Murray echoed that sentiment.

"There's no reason that a country with the resources and the medical expertise that the US has should see maternal deaths going up," he said in a statement. "The next step would be to examine local-level differences in maternal deaths to look for patterns and the drivers behind those patterns."

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