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Best Pract Res Clin Obstet Gynaecol. 2008 Jun;22(3):517-31. doi: 10.1016/j.bpobgyn.2007.10.004. Epub 2008 Jan 7.

Maternal mortality in the United States.

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Maternal-Fetal Medicine, The Ohio State University College of Medicine, Columbus, USA.


Despite a significant improvement in the US maternal mortality ratio since the early 1900s, it still represents a substantial and frustrating burden, particularly given the fact that - essentially - no progress has been made in most US States since 1982. Additionally, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that most cases are probably preventable. Two disheartening issues within this topic include a gross underestimation of the magnitude of maternal mortality - particularly before 1987, but which likely persists to a lesser degree today - and the continued significant racial disparity in maternal mortality. Explanations for the plateau in maternal mortality include the recent trend of delayed childbearing, with the potential accompanying complications associated with older reproductive age (particularly over 35 years) and multiparity. The impressive increase in multifetal pregnancies related to delayed childbearing and assisted reproductive technology also plays a role. Finally, peripartum cardiomyopathy has become an increasingly recognized source of maternal mortality. Pregnancy-related mortality is largely accounted for by thromboembolic disease, hemorrhage, hypertension and its associated complications, and infection. However, since the inclusion of maternal deaths occurring after 42 days post-delivery as pregnancy related, traumatic injuries - including homicides and suicides - are an alarming source of maternal mortality. An especially important contemporary issue to consider within this topic is cesarean delivery "on maternal request", opponents of which cite concerns not only for immediate morbidity and mortality increased over that associated with a vaginal birth, but also for potential morbidity and mortality associated with future pregnancies. One particularly appealing opportunity to reduce maternal mortality is to recognize, examine, and learn from so-called "near-miss" cases.

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