The study shows that high and rising US maternal mortality rates are caused by flawed data

A new study finds that maternal mortality rates in the US are high and rising due to flawed data.

Compared to other countries, the maternal mortality crisis in the US has shown high maternal mortality rates – but the study, Published on Wednesday The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that two decades of data may have been misclassified.

The number of women dying after childbirth has raised questions about care in the United States, and past estimates have shown that maternal mortality has doubled in the past two decades, the study found.

In 2003, the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) recommended that “pregnancy” be added to the checklist on a person's death certificate as a way to track maternal deaths.

After the checklist was updated, despite a rapid increase in maternal mortality rates, it resulted in “some egregious errors”, including hundreds of over-70s listed as pregnant at the time of death or just before they died. Deaths from other causes are treated as maternal deaths if the pregnancy box is checked.

NCHS later clarified that only women between 15 and 44 should be in the category, hoping it would reduce errors going forward. A specific cause of death in women over age 44 can be counted if it is related to pregnancy. Otherwise, the agency counted women of childbearing age as before.

Despite the changes, the researchers found that reports still show increased maternal mortality rates or an increase in misclassified maternal deaths.

The researchers found that maternal mortality rates decreased and stabilized over time when death certificates listed pregnancy among multiple causes of death.

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“Large racial and ethnic disparities in maternal mortality persist,” the study noted. Maternal mortality rates were disproportionately higher among black women, with large disparities in causes of death such as ectopic pregnancy, hypertensive disorders, embolism, cardiomyopathy and other cardiovascular diseases, the researchers found.

Using the new surveillance system, the researchers found that from 1999 to 2002, the maternal mortality rate in the United States was 10.2 per 100,000 live births. From 2018 to 2021, it increased by 10.4, 2 percent.

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