Every Mother Counts’ Response to AJOG Article: “Maternal mortality in the United States: are the high and rising rates due to changes in obstetrical factors, maternal medical conditions, or maternal mortality surveillance?”

NEW YORK, NY, March 20, 2024 Every Mother Counts believes that pregnancy and childbirth should be safe, respectful, and equitable for everyone, everywhere.

Since our founding, we have committed efforts to the United States because of the unacceptably high rates of maternal death in this country.

A recent article published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology suggests that evidence of increased maternal mortality since 1999 may be overstated due to changes in the methodology used by the CDC to count how many people die annually from pregnancy-related causes. The CDC refutes these claims and argues that the data used in the article represent a substantial undercount of maternal deaths.

Regardless of whether maternal mortality in the United States has substantially increased over the past twenty-five years or remained stable, Every Mother Counts cautions that the U.S. has among the highest maternal mortality rates of all high-resource countries in the world, and substantial and persistent racial disparities exist across maternal health outcomes and experiences of care in this country. We are deeply concerned that this study may lead to complacency and decreased action on an issue of critical importance.

Arguments over data collection methodology for maternal mortality only underscore the need for improved methods of surveillance, and the importance of state-based maternal mortality review committees to accurately capture rates of maternal death and understand causes of death.

Furthermore, we cannot be distracted from the substantial improvements needed in education, access to care, maternity workforce expansion, respectful maternity care, and policies to address the needs of birthing people and their families in this country.

Every preventable maternal death is unacceptable. Maternal health is a human right.