Every year in the United States, hundreds of women die of complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. According to CDC data, racial/ethnic disparities exist with regard to these deaths. For example, non-Hispanic black women were more than three times as likely to die as non-Hispanic white women, and non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native women were more than two times as likely to die as non-Hispanic white women.

GAO was asked to review issues related to maternal mortality in the U.S. In this report, GAO describes, among other things, (1) trends in pregnancy-related deaths in the United States, including trends in causes and timing of these deaths, and (2) HHS funding efforts focused on reducing pregnancy-related deaths.

GAO reviewed documentation about HHS’s surveillance efforts related to pregnancy-related deaths; and analyzed CDC data on leading causes of pregnancy-related deaths from 2007 through 2016 (the most recent 10-year period available at the time of GAO’s review). GAO also reviewed documentation and interviewed HHS and state public health officials in five selected states about HHS’s funding efforts aimed at reducing pregnancy-related deaths, including select efforts used in these states. GAO selected these states primarily based on their geographic diversity and their implementation of select efforts to address maternal mortality.

Authors: United States Government Accountability Office

Publication Date: March 2020

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