The rate of women dying from pregnancy-related complications has increased at a "statistically significant" pace, according to a long-awaited report on maternal deaths released today by the California Department of Public Health.
African American, low-income and less-educated women had higher deaths rates from complications related to childbirth, according to the report, which also noted "excessive gestational weight gain" and medical problems from C-sections as contributing to maternal deaths.
"More than a third of pregnancy-related deaths were determined to have had a good to strong chance of being prevented and some causes of death appeared to be more preventable than others," the report said.
Researchers had described the findings to California Watch in February 2010, but today's report is the first public release of the numbers. Experts in women's health had called the trend shocking; the statistics had showed giving birth in California was more dangerous than in Bosnia.
Today's report contains some new numbers – California’s maternal mortality rates for 2007 and 2008. The last released rate (from 2006) was 16.9 deaths per 100,000 live births. In 2007, the rate fell to 11, then bounced back to 14 the next year. That’s up from 6 in 1996.
Because these are small numbers, the rate appears to fluctuate dramatically. But the numbers show a “statistically significant increase in maternal mortality from 1999 to 2008,” according to the report.
The report suggests that a combination of factors were responsible.