These States Have the Highest Maternal Death Rates

A picture of a mother holding her baby's foot with one hand

A picture of a mother holding her baby’s foot with one hand | iStock

Pregnancy is both a beautiful and terrifying time for expecting parents. While many mothers-to-be are focused on their pregnancy diets, exercise, and the details of their delivery, they neglect to focus on the potential for injury during childbirth … and the odds of dying during pregnancy are higher than many think.

A USA Today report found over 50,000 women are severely injured during childbirth each year, and about 700 die. They found these numbers are rising, and that nearly half of the deaths are preventable.

In a concerning figure, the report also found that the United States is “the most dangerous place to give birth in the given world.” They ranked the states with the highest maternal death rates and uncovered how to be as safe as possible during pregnancy.

Louisiana, Georgia, and Indiana are the top three

Louisiana has the highest maternal death rate at 58.1 deaths per 100,000 births over the course of the study period (2012 to 2016). The two next highest, Georgia and Indiana, had 48.4 and 43.6 per 100,000 births, respectively over the study’s course.

The last seven states:

Arkansas, New Jersey, Missouri, Texas, D.C., South Carolina, and Tennessee make up numbers four through 10 on the list. Three states (Vermont, New Hampshire, and Alaska) didn’t have available data on maternal death rates. The investigation titled “Deadly Deliveries” noted that hospital malpractice when it comes to “long-known safety measures” are the cause of most maternal deaths and life-changing injuries during childbirth.

“Experts say that about 50 percent of the deaths of women from childbirth-related causes could be prevented if they were given better medical care … that’s a really surprising thing given that we’re one of the wealthiest countries in the world and we spend so much on medical care,” USA Today investigative reporter Alison Young told CBS This Morning.

Along with the rising death toll of childbearing women, 50,000 U.S. women experience life-changing injuries and harm during childbirth due to hospital malpractice. The two leading causes of death and injury during childbirth are hemorrhage and severe hypertension. Hypertension, another name for high blood pressure, can increase your risk of heart attack and lead to a stroke or death.

The USA Today report found that some hospitals “eye-ball” how much blood a woman loses while giving birth instead of measuring it for warning signs like hemorrhage.

Nurse smiling at Patient

Voice your concerns to your doctor. | Monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images 

California has one of the lowest maternal death rates

California tops the list the states with the lowest maternal death rates with only 4.0 deaths for every 100,000 births. California hospitals and safety advocates are issuing best practices that cut their state’s maternal death rate in half.


“They’re one of the early adopters where an organization out there has really pushed hospitals to follow these evidence-based best practices,” Young said. Research along with the new study is motivating hospitals all across the U.S. to understand the need to better their maternal health care. Cheatsheet reporter Lauren Weiler found there are currently 985 hospitals nationwide enrolled in a program to improve childbirth safety.

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