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As U.S. Maternal Mortality Rates Rise, Department of Health Stresses Importance of Women’s Health Care


Harrisburg, PA - As rates of maternal mortality continue to increase in Pennsylvania and the United States, the Department of Health urged women across the state, particularly those who are expecting or planning a family, to make sure they are getting the help they need for their physical and mental health.

“We are committed to ensuring that we have healthy women in Pennsylvania, with a special emphasis on healthy moms,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “Recent data shows that nearly 700 women die from pregnancy-related complications each year in the United States, and more than half of those deaths are preventable. Our maternal mortality review committee is working to take steps to ensure a safe and healthy experience for new mothers, and to help prepare them and their baby for life outside the hospital.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report earlier this week examining maternal mortality in the United States. From 2011-2015, nearly one-third of pregnancy-related deaths happened during pregnancy, nearly one-third happened during delivery or in the week after, and about one-third occurred from one week after to one year after. This near equal distribution in pregnancy-related mortality highlights the importance of proper care before, during and after delivery. Heart disease and stroke caused more than one-third of all deaths, with other leading causes including infections and severe bleeding.

Governor Wolf signed Act 24 of 2018, establishing the state’s Maternal Mortality Review Committee last year as a first step to addressing the serious issue of an increasing maternal mortality rate across the commonwealth, and to protect Pennsylvania mothers. The committee has been meeting and is working on developing programs, policies, recommendations and strategies based on collected data to prevent maternal deaths.

In Pennsylvania, from 2012-2016, an increasing trend in pregnancy-related deaths has occurred, with 11.4 deaths per 100,000 live births. For black women, that rate is more than double, at 27.2 pregnancy-related deaths per 100,000 live births. Pennsylvania’s rate, while increasing, is below the national rate of 18.0 deaths per 100,000 live births. Nationwide, the pregnancy-related mortality for black women was 40.0 deaths per 100,000 live births.

There are several things that can be done to increase women’s opportunities for care and include improving access to and delivery of quality prenatal care during pregnancy, which includes managing chronic conditions and education about warning signs. At delivery, it is important for patient care to be standardized, including delivering high-risk women at specialized facilities with providers and equipment prepared to treat specific cases. After delivery, it is important that high-quality care is continually provided to ensure Pennsylvania has healthy moms who can raise healthy kids.

The department has resources to assist women. These include the Women, Infants and Children Special Supplemental Nutrition Program (WIC), which helps pregnant women, mothers and caregivers of infants and young children learn about good nutrition to keep themselves and their families healthy.

For more information about women’s health, visit or follow the Department of Health on Facebook and Twitter.

MEDIA CONTACT: Nate Wardle, 717-787-1783 or

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