Pregnancy-related deaths, mostly preventable, occur up to a year after birth: CDC

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Some 700 women in the United States die from pregnancy-related complications each year, up to a year after giving birth, and the deaths are usually preventable, according to a study released by U.S. health officials on Tuesday.

One-third of pregnancy-related deaths, often from heart disease or strokes, occur from one week up to a year after birth, while a third occurs during pregnancy, and one-third at delivery or in the week after, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found.

The study confirmed previous findings that black women and American Indian or Alaska native women were about three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related issues than white women.

“Ensuring quality care for mothers throughout their pregnancies and postpartum should be among our nation’s highest priorities,” said CDC Director Robert Redfield in a statement.

Most of the deaths that occurred between one week and a year after delivery were caused by weakened heart muscles, while severe bleeding, high blood pressure and infection caused most deaths in the week after delivery. Most women who died during delivery suffered from obstetric emergencies like severe bleeding and amniotic fluid in the bloodstream.

The study looked at four years of national data on pregnancy mortality and four years of data from 13 state maternal mortality review committees.

Pregnancy-related deaths were largely preventable with the right access to care, proper and timely diagnoses, and knowledge of the warning signs among patients and providers, the CDC said.

Reporting by Gabriella Borter; Editing by Bernadette Baum