The definition of maternal mortality or maternal death varies slightly amongst the different governing organizations. The standing definition is that maternal death is the death of a pregnant woman due to pregnancy-related complications and/or conditions that were made worse by the pregnancy. Death can occur anytime during the pregnancy or within six weeks or up to one year after delivery. One organization uses six weeks postpartum while others use up to one year postpartum.
The obstetric complications that account for the majority of maternal deaths are bleeding (hemorrhage), thrombotic events, high blood pressure and infection.
Homicide and unsafe abortions both contribute to maternal deaths in the United States causing the U.S. to rank 55th in maternal mortality compared to other higher-income countries.
Between 1955 and 1985, global maternal mortality declined significantly, however within the past ten years, the U.S. numbers are rising again.
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The incidence of maternal death in the U.S. is 24 deaths per 100,000 live births. The maternal death rate in the U.S. far exceeds that of other higher-income countries. Among these countries are the Netherlands, Japan, Germany and Canada to name a few where the death rate is one-third that of the U.S. This alarming statistic is three times higher in the African American community.
The causes of the increase in maternal mortality in the U.S., especially in the African American community, are quite entangled and difficult to isolate.
There are barriers to health care that are deeply rooted in discrimination and lead to socioeconomic factors that play a role in limiting health care access.
Such factors as inadequate education, suboptimal access to health care and a higher propensity to have chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity are affecting the Black community at a disproportionately higher rate.
Providing access to health care is paramount in decreasing maternal mortality. Health deserts are