Working Together to End Maternal Mortality

There is no acceptable rate of maternal mortality. This statement was a common theme at the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Public Health Grand Rounds, which focused on meeting the challenges of measuring and preventing maternal mortality in the United States. 

About 700 women die each year in the United States as a result of pregnancy or delivery complications. And, women in the United States are more likely to die from childbirth or pregnancy-related causes than other women in high-income countries. What tragic statistics. 

According to CDC, pregnancy-related death is defined as the death of a woman during pregnancy or within one year of the end of pregnancy from a pregnancy complication, a chain of events initiated by pregnancy, or the aggravation of an unrelated condition by the physiologic effects of pregnancy.

Strong, accurate data are critical for identifying opportunities for preventing deaths among mothers and designing effective interventions. To help address this need, we are currently partnering with CDC and the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs (AMCHP) to produce stronger data than ever before and foster collaboration that can lead to effective interventions. Funding for the collaboration was provided through an award agreement with Merck on behalf of its Merck for Mothers program.

The collaboration, called Building U.S. Capacity to Review and Prevent Maternal Deaths, promotes the maternal mortality review process as the best way to understand why maternal mortality in the United States is increasing, and identify interventions to prevent maternal deaths. It supports essential review functions and enables data to be combined across jurisdictions for national learning, which was not previously possible. Additional resources that support maternal mortality review committees are available at the Review to Action website.

Merck for MothersAt the Grand Rounds, I took particular note of the presentation from Mary-Ann Etiebet, MD, MBA, who is executive director of Merck for Mothers. She discussed the importance of quality maternity care, and noted that we need to move from awareness to action to end maternal mortality. The entire Grand Rounds presentation will soon be available on CDC’s website.

We are so grateful to Merck for Mothers for their support of this critically important collaboration. I hope that one day, we will live in a world where maternal mortality is a challenge of the past.


Claire Stinson is a senior communications officer for the CDC Foundation.