Jul 31, 2023 - Health

Maternal deaths in Oregon increase

Estimated maternal mortality rate in 2019, by state
Data: Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation; Map: Tory Lysik/Axios Visuals

Maternal mortality rates nationwide have risen across racial and ethnic groups over the past 20 years, according to a recent study co-authored by researchers at the University of Washington.

By the numbers: The overall number of deaths per 100,000 live births in Oregon increased from 6.5 to 14 between 1999–2019.

Why it matters: Researchers say most maternal deaths are preventable, yet the U.S. has one of the highest rates of such deaths among high-income countries.

The big picture: Nationwide maternal mortality rates more than doubled between 1999 and 2019, with states in the Midwest, Great Plains and South accounting for significant increases.

  • Overall, there were an estimated 1,210 U.S. maternal deaths in 2019, compared to 505 in 1999.

Details: The study, published earlier this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association, provides the first state-by-state breakdowns of maternal mortality rates by ethnic group.

Zoom in: In Oregon, the maternal death rate among American Indians and Alaska Natives spiked by 168% from 1999 to 2019, rising from 9.2 deaths per 100,000 live births to 24.7 deaths per 100,000 live births.

  • Black women in the state saw an estimated 58% increase in maternal deaths over the same period, with the death rate rising from 17.4 per 100,000 to 27.6 per 100,000.

The intrigue: In 2019, Oregon was one of eight states where maternal death rates across all racial groups was lower than previous years, which suggested "prevention efforts have had some success in these locations," according to the study.

Meanwhile, the Oregon Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Review Committee, which includes health care professionals appointed by the governor, found that 53% of pregnancy-related deaths from 2018 to 2020 were preventable after reviewing case information.

  • In its 2023 report, the committee stressed the importance of including more doulas in health care settings and ensuring pregnant people with histories of substance use disorder receive proper medical treatment.
  • The committee found that 41% of pregnancy-related deaths included substance use disorder as an underlying cause of death.
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