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

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.

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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