NCHS Releases First Estimate of Maternal Mortality in 13 Years

NCHS recently released its final 2018 mortality data, which includes the first official estimate of maternal mortality since 2007. NCHS suspended annual estimates of the maternal mortality rate (defined as the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of pregnancy) due to inconsistencies and errors in state death records. To create the new estimates, NCHS performed an analysis of the use of checkboxes indicating current or recent pregnancy that had been added to the standard death certificate and revised its coding procedures to ensure that it was sufficiently accounting for potential errors.

Thanks to this work, NCHS determined that the average U.S. maternal mortality rate is 17.4 deaths per 100,000 live births, and that the rate is significantly higher among non-Hispanic Black women (37.1 per 100,000 live births) compared to non-Hispanic and Hispanic white woman. While the new maternal mortality rate is more than double the rate reported before NCHS ended its estimates, it determined that the increase in reported rates is almost entirely because of changes in reporting methods. According to NCHS’s evaluations, the maternal mortality rate has not significantly changed since 1999. Going forward, NCHS will include annual estimates of maternal mortality with its overall annual mortality data.

NCHS released three reports accompanying its new data: (1) Evaluation of the Pregnancy Status Checkbox on the Identification of Maternal Deaths; (2) Impact of the Pregnancy Checkbox and Misclassification on Maternal Mortality Trends in the United States, 1999—2017; and (3) Maternal Mortality in the United States: Changes in Coding, Publication, and Data Release, 2018.

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