Doctors investigate rise in maternal mortality rate

March 25, 2019 05:53 PM

NEW YORK (WHEC) -- New York state is putting together a team of medical experts to investigate why more women are dying during or immediately following childbirth.

The maternal mortality rate has been steadily rising in this country and particularly in New York state.


Any woman who has been pregnant will tell you the nine-month marathon to delivery day is both exciting and anxiety-ridden. The mother is so focused on the little life being brought into the world, she can sometimes miss the risks to her own life. 

Nationwide data shows that in 1990 about 17 maternal deaths were recorded for every 100,000 pregnancies.

In 2015, that number rose to more than 26 deaths per 100,000.

"Some of that has to do with our burden of disease in this country, some of it has to do with access to early and effective prenatal care and more important, preconception care," says Dr. Loralei Thornburg, director of maternal-fetal medicine at URMC.

It also has to do with the fact that American women are waiting longer to have their babies.

"That often comes with more medical concerns and more complications," Dr. Thornburg explains.   

For every one death, there are about 100 injuries.

"More than just mortality, people dying... we need to talk about morbidity... people who get sick and have other complications in pregnancy and how can we better prevent and treat the women who get those," says Dr. Thornburg.  

According to the CDC, the leading causes of pregnancy-related deaths or problems are cardiovascular disease, infection, hemorrhage, and hypertensive disorders.  

Sometimes the issues are sudden, other times there are symptoms a mom can and should pay attention to.

"Swelling, seeing little fireflies, having pain in your right side, getting a bad headache late in pregnancy, it can be accompanied by some elevated blood pressure, protein in the urine and some other lab changes," explains Dr. Thornburg.

These are all issues that should be brought to the attention of a doctor right away. 


Jennifer Lewke

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