Maternal Mortality: It’s Actually More Common Than You Think

Image via Flickr/ MammaLoves

When I hear the term “maternal mortality,” I assume that the term is being used in reference to describing birthing conditions in either the time of the Dark Ages or in underdeveloped and impoverished countries. 

Turns out both of those assumptions are not quite correct.

In an interview with EverydayFamily, Michael Rosenblatt, M.D., Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of Merck & Co., Inc., said that “we tend, in the US, to think that maternal mortality is a problem that is over in the developing world or something that is from a bygone era.” From what Dr. Rosenblatt said in the interview, we know that “[maternal mortality] is very real, and we do have a problem with it in the United States.”

{ MORE: The Shocking Truth About Childbirth & Death in the United States }

On a yearly basis, we lose 1,000 mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, friends to birth complications. The maternal mortality rate (the number of women that die during childbirth) in other developing countries is, as Dr. Rosenblatt said, “being addressed and being reduced in many parts of the world.” This is awesome! It's a terrible thing to lose a life while in the process of bringing one to earth, so to be able to say that other places in the world are seeing more moms and more babies being healthy post birth is spectacular.

But with that great news comes the news that, along with the 1,000 deaths that occur in the U.S. every year due to maternal mortality, over 60,000 women stare death in the face as they are giving birth. What's even more grim is that the mortality rate in the United States has seen its numbers double in the last two decades alone.

The thing that's even more striking than that statistic is that “the vast majority of [these deaths] are preventable.” 

The three most common pregnancy complications the can lead to maternal mortality can be remembered by the acronym PEP: preeclampsia, embolism, and postpartum hemorrhaging.

{ MORE: Giving Birth: Pushing Like a Boss and Unexpected Complications }

Preeclampsia is a condition that is characterized by dangerously high blood pressure. Beyond pregnancy, high blood pressure is not a good thing, so if you have high blood pressure during pregnancy, your pregnancy could possibly turn onto a very dangerous road. We've got quite a bit on our site about what preeclampsia is, what the complications are, and how to prevent it.

Embolism is a blot clot that forms in the blood stream and then moves into the lungs.


Postpartum hemorrhaging is an issue that deals with massive blood loss at the time of childbirth. Jennifer Albert, who was also featured in the interview, actually lost so much blood because of this complication that she had to have 17 blood transfusions, so she knows full well of the seriousness of postpartum hemorrhaging and what that sort of condition could result in.

Because of the rise in the maternal mortality rate in the United States, Merck for Mothers is working hard to raise money and awareness for PEP and is encouraging the loved ones of pregnant women to give them a PEP talk — a reminder to stay as healthy and as aware as possible so that each birth experience will be complete with a healthy baby and a healthy mom.


Merck for Mothers is a 10-year, $500 million initiative focused on creating a world where no woman has to die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. You can find more information at, or you can go to their Facebook page or you can follow them on Twitter.

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Maternal Mortality: It’s Actually More Common Than You Think

Jace Whatcott is a self-diagnosed introvert who loves crossword puzzles, golf, and reading. Despite being a male contributor—one of the few on this particular website—he is not in unfamiliar territory. Because he is an English major, 90% of his classmates are females, so he’s not too worried about being a fish out of water. One of his favorite things to do is to raid local thrift stores for used books. He’s always looking for something to read, or for something to put on his endless to-r ... More

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