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A pregnancy-related death is one that occurs during pregnancy or within 1 year after the end of pregnancy and is caused by pregnancy-related complications. Although the risk of pregnancy-related death is very low, some women have higher risks of death than others. African-American women are three to four times more likely than white women to die of pregnancy-related complications. African-American women are more likely to die from ectopic pregnancies and preeclampsia. African-American women are also more likely to leak amniotic fluids during pregnancy, which can lead to infection. For African-American women, the risk of pregnancy-related death goes up greatly with age.
We do not know for sure why African-American women have such high rates of pregnancy-related death. One study suggests that limited access to health care may be one reason, noting that pregnant African-American women were more than twice as likely as white women to get late or no prenatal care. Most of the women in the study said they wanted earlier prenatal care, but they could not get it because of a lack of money or insurance or not being able to get an appointment.
Protecting your health and your unborn baby's health starts before pregnancy with good preconception health. Preconception health means knowing how health conditions and risk factors you have could affect your health or your unborn baby's health if you become pregnant. For instance, some health problems, such as high blood pressure, could affect your pregnancy. Taking care of your preconception health is important because many pregnancies are not planned.
Protecting your health and your unborn baby's health continues during pregnancy with routine prenatal care. Prenatal care is a series of medical checkups that help keep you and your unborn baby healthy during pregnancy. With prenatal care, any problems that arise can be found as early as possible and treated. All women can get prenatal care. Every state in the United States has a no-cost or low-cost program to help pregnant women in need get prenatal care. Call 800-311-BABY to find out about the program in your state.
Explore other publications and websites
Pregnancy-Induced Hypertension (Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians) — This publication provides information on the symptoms of preeclampsia, possible treatments, and the risks to the woman and her pregnancy.
What I Need to Know About Gestational Diabetes — This booklet defines gestational diabetes, explains its causes and diagnosis, and outlines treatments. It also includes strategies for preventing or delaying type 2 diabetes later in life.
Connect with other organizations
American College of Nurse-Midwives
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs
March of Dimes
Maternal and Child Health Bureau, HRSA, HHS
National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse, NIH
Public Information and Communications Branch, NICHD, NIH, HHS
Content last updated May 18, 2010.
Resources last updated May 18, 2010.
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