Racial Inequities in Preventable Pregnancy-Related Deaths in Louisiana, 2011–2016 : Obstetrics & Gynecology

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Contents: Original Research

Racial Inequities in Preventable Pregnancy-Related Deaths in Louisiana, 2011–2016

Mehta, Pooja K. MD, MSHP; Kieltyka, Lyn PhD, MPH; Bachhuber, Marcus A. MD, MSHP; Smiles, Dana MPH, MA; Wallace, Maeve PhD, MPH; Zapata, Amy MPH; Gee, Rebekah E. MD, MPH

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Obstetrics & Gynecology 135(2):p 276-283, February 2020. | DOI: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000003591


To examine preventable pregnancy-related deaths in Louisiana by race and ethnicity and maternal level of care to inform quality improvement efforts.


We conducted a retrospective observational descriptive analysis of Louisiana Pregnancy-Associated Mortality Review data of 47 confirmed pregnancy-related deaths occurring from 2011 to 2016. The review team determined cause of death, preventability, and contributing factors. We compared preventability by race–ethnicity and maternal level of care of the facility where death occurred (from level I: basic care to level IV: regional perinatal health center) using odds ratios (ORs) and 95% CIs.


The rate of pregnancy-related death among non-Hispanic black women (22.7/100,000 births, 95% CI 15.5–32.1, n=32/140,785) was 4.1 times the rate among non-Hispanic white women (5.6/100,000, 95% CI 2.8–10.0, n=11/197,630). Hemorrhage (n=8/47, 17%) and cardiomyopathy (n=8/47, 17%) were the most common causes of pregnancy-related death. Among non-Hispanic black women who experienced pregnancy-related death, 59% [n=19] of deaths were deemed potentially preventable, compared with 9% (n=1) among non-Hispanic white women (OR 14.6, 95% CI 1.7–128.4). Of 47 confirmed pregnancy-related deaths, 58% (n=27) occurred at level III or IV birth facilities. Compared with those at level I or II birth facilities (n=2/4, 50%), pregnancy-related deaths occurring at level III or IV birth facilities (n=14/27, 52%) were not less likely to be categorized as preventable (OR 2.0, 95% CI 0.5–8.0).


Compared with non-Hispanic white women, pregnancy-related deaths that occurred among non-Hispanic black women in Louisiana from 2011 to 2016 were more likely to be preventable. The proportion of deaths that were preventable was similar between lower and higher level birth facilities. Hospital-based quality improvement efforts focused on addressing hemorrhage, hypertension, and associated racial inequities may prevent pregnancy-related deaths in Louisiana.

© 2020 by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Published by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.

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