Maternal Mortality

New Study Claims The Validity Of U.S. Maternal Mortality Rates Are Up For Debate

A new study proposes an alternative method to collecting U.S. maternal mortality rates, suggesting that the current numbers are an overestimation.

A new study published by the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology has proposed that the CDC’s current U.S. maternal mortality rates are inflated.

The study emphasized that the current categorizations for the statistics contribute to this supposed inflation, as reported by ProPublica. Its alternative resolution suggests only counting maternal mortality if a cause listed on death certificates specifically mentions pregnancy.

The publication did note that there is room for flaws in data collection, especially as direct reporting by doctors on patients’ causes of death is how the CDC gathers this information. It also stated how changes to abortion access across the country had played a role. States with limited or banned access have higher maternal mortality rates.

The CDC, however, refuted the claims that their data misleads Americans on the state of the maternal mortality crisis. In its perspective, changing the categorization will lead to further misinformation and marginalization of the issues causing it.

“To reduce the U.S. maternal mortality crisis to an ‘overestimation’ is irresponsible and minimizes the many lives lost and the families that have been deeply affected,” explained Dr. Christopher Zahn, interim CEO at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

The CDC has also noted that it has addressed these challenges regarding data collection in past reports. The health organization has also implemented additional measures to ensure the accuracy of this growing statistic. These included not considering a pregnancy checkbox on the death certificates for women 45 years of age or older. They maintain that their current calculations, even if over the actual number, still correctly detail that the rate is increasing.

“We feel fairly confident that there has been an increase [in maternal mortality], particularly during the pandemic,” Robert Anderson, the CDC’s chief of mortality statistics, told CNN. We went from underestimating to overestimating, so we had to make that correction. But I feel fairly confident that the increases since 2018 are real.”

However, the study’s implementation between two time spans differs from the CDC’s numbers. While the CDC noted an increase in maternal mortality, the study listed a stagnant rate for 1999-2022 and 2018- 2021.

Regardless of the distinct numbers, Black women continue to be most impacted by maternal mortality. The new study also confirmed that their numbers remained higher than the other racial groups. This rate is nearly three times higher than that of their white counterparts, even with the alternative method used.

While the divide persists regarding the best course of action to track maternal mortality, the CDC remains committed to addressing the groups and factors critically tied to the issue.