Every year in the United States, more than 700 women die of complications related to
pregnancy and childbirth, and more than 50,000 women experience a life-threatening
complication (severe maternal morbidity). Maternal mortality in the United States more than
doubled between 1990 and 2014, from 9.8 to 18 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, at a
time when 157 of 183 countries in a World Health Organization (WHO) study reported decreases
in maternal mortality. Both maternal and infant mortality are widely considered indicators of a
nation’s health and quality of health care. The United States has seen an overall improvement in
infant mortality rate, declining 15% from the recent high of 6.86 infant deaths per 1,000 live
births in 2005 to 5.82 in 2014. However, trends in infant and maternal mortality rates are not
declining as significantly as we would hope, especially as compared with similar countries. Clearly
what we are doing to address the health needs of mothers and newborn infants is not enough.
Over the years, many efforts at the local, state, and national level have been made to understand
the root cause of maternal and infant mortality in the United States. This paper leverages those
effort to identify a comprehensive and concise list of the drivers and risk factors for maternal and
infant mortality -so that we as a nation can relinquish the ignoble Top Spot on the list of maternal
and infant mortality among developed nations.
Keywords: Maternal Mortality, Infant Mortality, Pregnancy, Childbirth, Racial Disparities,
Income Disparities