Maternal Mortality Rates on the Rise in California, Report Finds
Pregnancy-related deaths have increased at a significant pace in California over the last decade, according to a report by the state Department of Public Health, the Los Angeles Times' "Booster Shots" reports.
The department's California Pregnancy-Related and Pregnancy-Associated Mortality Review committee investigated the state's maternal mortality trends and conducted case reviews using data from 2002Â and 2003.
The report found that pregnancy-related deaths in California increased fromÂ eight deaths per 100,000 live births in 1999 to 14 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2008 (Roan, "Booster Shots," Los Angeles Times, 4/26).
The study also found that black women were about four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than women of other racial or ethnic groups. In 2008, the maternal mortality rate among black California women was 36.1 per 100,000 live births, compared with 9.6 per 100,000 live births among white women and 8.5 per 100,000 live births among Hispanic women (Mohajer, AP/Contra Costa Times, 4/26).
After conducting the case reviews, researchers identified 98 pregnancy-related deaths that occurred in 2002 and 2003. Of those, they found that:
- Delays or inadequacy of treatment played a role in 41 deaths;
- Ineffective treatments contributed to 35 deaths;
- Obesity or weight-gain played a role in 18 deaths; and
- Caesarean sections contributed to 15 deaths.
Twenty-four of the women who died from pregnancy-related causes had multiple pre-existing medical conditions, according to the report (Johnson, California Watch, 4/26).
Researchers suggested that excessive weight and underlying cardiovascular disease are a major factor in many pregnancy-related deaths.
They also noted that an increase in c-sections could be contributing to the rise in maternal mortality rates. C-sections now account for nearly one-third of all U.S. births.
The committee concluded that women should begin their pregnancies in better health. They added that physicians should counsel women on maintaining a healthy weight during pregnancy and advise them about the risks of c-sections ("Booster Shots," Los Angeles Times, 4/26).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.