Press Release

Rise in U.S. Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Explored in Leading Nursing Journal

Washington D.C., November 20, 2013 - Significant strides have been made in recent years to reduce maternal morbidity and mortality rates around the world, but in the United States, maternal mortality rates have been on the rise since the 1980s.  An article published in the October/November 2013 issue of Nursing for Women's Health, the clinical practice journal of the Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN), highlights the increase in maternal deaths during the last 30 years and reviews factors influencing this trend.

In "An Update on Maternal Mortality and Morbidity in the United States," Joan E. Edwards, PhD, RNC, CNS and June Hanke, MSN, MPH, BScN, RN, examine the rise in U.S. maternal mortality rates from 6.6 out of 100,000 live births during the 1980s to 13.3 out of 100,000 live births in 2008 as reported by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) or 21 out of 100,000 live births in 2010 as reported by the World Health Organization.  Both measurements detect a marked increase in U.S. maternal mortality rates.

Edwards and Hanke explore what factors are influencing the maternal mortality rate in the United States, including changes in the diagnosis coding, adoption of the U.S. standard death certificate, national maternal mortality surveillance through the Pregnancy Mortality Surveillance System, and increases in maternal deaths from cardiovascular conditions.  Recent research indicates cardiovascular-related deaths may be connected to later-life pregnancies and pre-existing conditions like obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and repeat cesarean surgical deliveries.

"Death or disability of a mother related to childbirth has significant, long-term effects on children, families and our communities," said AWHONN's CEO Karen Peddicord, PhD, RN. "This article helps nurses to better understand maternal mortality rates in the United States and efforts to improve our results globally."

AWHONN is at the forefront of efforts to reduce rates of maternal mortality and morbidity in the United States.  This month, AWHONN launched its multi-year Postpartum Hemorrhage Project.  The Project will start as a demonstration among hospitals in the District of Columbia, Georgia and New Jersey with the goal to reduce the number of women who bleed to death during or after pregnancy.  The Postpartum Hemorrhage Project complements existing efforts from AWHONN to reduce the number of elective inductions of labor through the "Don't Rush Me...Go the Full 40 " campaign.

The authors encourage communities and health care professionals to continue working on identifying causes of maternal mortality and morbidity in the United States and to support quality improvement initiatives.


About Nursing for Women's Health

Nursing for Women's Health is a bimonthly refereed clinical practice journal of the Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses.  The journal circulates to more than 25,000 nurses who care for women and newborns and is available online at


The Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) is the foremost nursing authority that advances the health care of women and newborns through advocacy, research and the creation of high quality, evidence-based standards of care.  AWHONN's 24,000 members worldwide are clinicians, educators and executives who serve as patient care advocates focusing on the needs of women and infants.  A leader in professional development, AWHONN holds the distinction of twice receiving the Premier Program award by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) for innovation and excellence in Continuing Nursing Education (CNE).  Founded in 1969 as the Nurses Association of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the association became a separate nonprofit organization called the Association of Women's Health and Neonatal Nurses in 1993.

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