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Why Are Maternal Deaths on the Rise in California?

As reported by MSNBC, maternal mortality is on the rise in California, with African-American mothers roughly four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than women in any other racial or ethnic groups.

According to a study by the California Department of Heath, the overall rate of maternal deaths has gown exponentially, from eight per 100,000 live births in 1999 to 14 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2008.

The study also revealed that the maternal mortality rate among African-American women was 36.1 per 100,000 live births, compared to 9.6 for white women and 8.5 for Hispanic women in 2008.

While at least one third of the overall increase can be attributed to better tracking and reporting, the other causes for the spike in maternal deaths are unclear. The study identified a number of factors that can affect maternal mortality, including the increasing age of mothers and the prevalence of maternal chronic conditions such as obesity.

Cesarean section delivery rates have been rising at the same time as increases in maternal morbidity, the study highlighted. As we have previously noted in this blog, C-sections have higher risks of complications such as infection, bleeding or blood clots when compared to vaginal births.

Although the report did not draw any concrete conclusions about the effect of quality of care, the committee did determine that more than one-third of the maternal deaths had a good chance of being prevented, especially in cases of hemorrhage or infection.