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Increased Risk of Dying from Pregnancy among Hispanic Women in the United States

The first national study of pregnancy-related deaths in Hispanic women in the United States by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that pregnancy-related deaths occur more frequently in Hispanic women than in non-Hispanic white women.

Because Hispanic women have a higher risk of death associated with pregnancy than non-Hispanic white women, more research and surveillance are needed to determine the medical and non-medical factors that contribute to the problem, according to the study's authors.

"Pregnancy-Related Mortality in Hispanic Women in the United States," released in the November 1999 issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology, is based on a review of all reported pregnancy-related deaths occurring between 1979 and 1992 in states reporting Hispanic origin for each year of the study. Following are key findings:

  • Over the 14-year study period, 623 of the 3,777 pregnancy-related deaths in the U.S. were of women of Hispanic origin.
  • The pregnancy-related mortality ratio was 10.3 deaths per 100,000 live births for Hispanic women during the 14-year period, compared with 6.0 deaths for non-Hispanic white women and 25.1 deaths for non-Hispanic black women.
  • Among U.S.-born Hispanic women for the years 1987-1992, pregnancy-related mortality ratios varied slightly among subgroups: Mexican (8.1 deaths per 100,000 live births); Puerto Rican (8.7); and Cuban (7.2). Among foreign-born Hispanic women for the same period, ratios among subgroups were: Mexican (9.9); Puerto Rican (13.5); and Cuban (9.6).
  • The risk of pregnancy-related death increased as Hispanic women grew older, as it does for non-Hispanic white women and non-Hispanic black women. For Hispanic women with three or more live births, the risk of pregnancy-related death also increased.
  • Hispanic women in this study who received no prenatal care had a higher risk of pregnancy-related death than those receiving some prenatal care.
  • Following a live birth or stillbirth, the leading cause of pregnancy-related death for Hispanic women was pregnancy-induced hypertension (high blood pressure that develops during pregnancy). Pregnancy-induced hypertension is responsible for about one-third of pregnancy-related deaths following a live birth or stillbirth in Hispanic women.
  • Pregnancy-related deaths from pregnancy-induced hypertension are preventable; experts recommend early prenatal care, subsequent detection of pregnancy-induced hypertension, and careful monitoring and treatment during pregnancy to prevent serious complications.
  • Other leading causes of death for Hispanic women after a live birth or stillbirth are hemorrhage, embolism, and infection.
  • For the years 1987-1992, foreign-born Hispanic women had a higher risk of pregnancy-related death than Hispanic women born in the United States. Forty percent of all Hispanic live births were to U.S.-born women and 60% were to foreign-born Hispanic women.

Source:
United States Department of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
Division of Reproductive Health
Updated: May 13, 2003.



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