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While maternal mortality rates are on the decline internationally, the number of women who die during or soon after pregnancy is on the rise in the US, new research has found.
The US maternal mortality rate rose by nearly 27 per cent between 2000 and 2014, according to the study by the University of Maryland Population Research Center (MPRC).
For every 100,000 live births, nearly 24 women died during, or within 42 days after pregnancy in 2014. That was up from nearly 19 per 100,000 in 2000, said the study published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynaecology.
"It's important to note that maternal death is still a rare event, but it is of great concern that the rate is increasing, rather than improving," said the study's lead author Marian MacDorman.
"Maternal mortality is an important indicator of the overall quality of health care both nationally and internationally," Professor MacDorman noted.
What makes the US statistics even more discouraging is that the numbers are trending in the opposite direction around the world, the researchers said.
The US would rank 30th on a list of 31 countries reporting data on maternal mortality to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, beating out only Mexico, the study said.
"Clearly, the US maternal mortality rate is moving in the wrong direction," MacDorman said.
"There is a need to redouble efforts to prevent maternal deaths and improve maternity care for the four million US women giving birth each year," she said.
This observational study analysed vital statistics on maternal mortality data from all US states.
California showed a declining trend, whereas Texas had a sudden increase in 2011-2012.
While the researchers did not link the rise in maternal mortality to a specific cause, they did note that it has seen "some changes in the provision of women's health services" since 2011, New Scientist reported.
MacDorman noted that some of the national increase in maternal deaths has to do with better reporting.
In 2003, US states began revising their death certificates to include specific questions about pregnancy.
However, the 27 per cent increase was found after taking into account these changes in reporting, MacDorman said.
-Inputs By IANS