BISMARCK, ND (KXNET) — A study from the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) Maternal Mortality Review Committees (MMRCs) has identified that over 80% of deaths related to pregnancy in 2017-2019 were preventable.

MMRCs are multidisciplinary committees — consisting of members with and without clinical backgrounds — who meet at state or local levels to review pregnancy-related deaths during or within one year of pregnancy. The information used in the study, taken from 36 U.S states, highlights the leading causes of death by race and ethnicity and can be used to prioritize interventions that can both save lives and reduce health disparities.

The 2017-2019 information is the first to be released under the CDC’s Enhancing Reviews and Surveillance to Eliminate Maternal Mortality, a program designed to help support groups that manage MMRCs. The CDC also supports the Maternal Mortality Review Information Application (MMRIA) to standardize the reporting of all data from MMRCs. This helps the CDC document and disseminate important information from MMRCs across the country.

Among the pregnancy-related deaths reported from 2017 to 2019, it’s worth noting that only 22% occurred during the pregnancy itself — 25% occurred during the day of delivery or within seven days after, and a massive 53% occurred between a week to a year afterward. The seven leading underlying causes of pregnancy-related deaths are as follows:

#1: Mental health conditions, including deaths related to suicide and overdose/poisoning related to substance use disorders: 23%

#2: Excessive bleeding and hemorrhages: 14%

#3: Cardiac and coronary conditions (relating to the heart): 13%

#4: Infection: 9%

#5: Thrombotic embolism (a type of blood clot): 9%

#6: Cardiomyopathy (a disease of the heart muscle): 9%

#7: Hypertensive disorders of pregnancy (relating to high blood pressure): 7%

The exact leading underlying cause of death varies for each individual, depending on race and ethnicity. Among non-Hispanic Black people, cardiac and coronary conditions were the largest underlying cause. Mental health conditions were identified as the leading underlying cause for Hispanic and non-Hispanic White people, and hemorrhages were the leading underlying cause for non-Hispanic Asian people. It was reported that American Indian or Alaskan Native people are disproportionally affected by pregnancy-related deaths. Based on a review of the two groups separately, mental health conditions and hemorrhages were again identified as the largest underlying causes of these deaths, accounting for 50% of the mortality rate. 93% of these deaths were determined to have been preventable, and about 64% occurred between seven days to one year after pregnancy.

“The report paints a much clearer picture of pregnancy-related deaths in this country,” said Wanda Barfield, M.D., M.P.H. in a press release.“The majority of pregnancy-related deaths were preventable, highlighting the need for quality improvement initiatives in states, hospitals, and communities that ensure all people who are pregnant or postpartum get the right care at the right time.”

This information from the MMRCs will help the CDC learn where to establish more support programs, and to both better understand and prevent pregnancy-related deaths in the US. Recently, the CDC expanded investments in efforts to eliminate these preventable pregnancy deaths — with new awards totaling $2.8 million to support additional MMRCs in nine jurisdictions. MMRCs are now supported in 39 states and one US Territory.

For information on MMRCs, visit this page. Ways that you can help support pregnant and postpartum people are available here as part of the CDC’s ‘Hear Her’ campaign.