DHS: Latest data shows nearly half of all pregnancy-related deaths were due to an overdose

Published: Apr. 19, 2022 at 9:02 AM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WSAW) - The Wisconsin Department of Health Services has released its latest maternal mortality report. It looks into the factors and circumstances of women who died giving birth or within one year of giving birth. All deaths are factored into the report regardless of cause.

The study collected and analyzed data from 2016-2017. In Wisconsin, there were 80 pregnancy-associated deaths in 2016–2017. The Maternal Mortality Review Team determined that 33 of those deaths were pregnancy-related.

The three most common causes of pregnancy-related deaths in 2016–17 were:

• 52% Mental Health Conditions: includes substance use disorders and overdoses

• 12% Hemorrhage (excludes aneurysms and cerebrovascular accidents or strokes): blood loss

• 9% Cardiomyopathy: a disease of the heart muscle that makes it harder for the heart to pump blood to the rest of the body, which can lead to heart failure

Nearly half, 48% of all pregnancy-related deaths in 2016–17 were due to an overdose.

Manner of Death by Pregnancy-Relatedness, Wisconsin, 
Manner of Death by Pregnancy-Relatedness, Wisconsin, 2016–17(Wisconsin DHS)

The age group most impacted by pregnancy-associated deaths was 20-29 years.

Deaths by age group
Deaths by age group(Wisconsin Department of Health Services)

One of the MMRT’s recommendations to prevent these deaths includes educating pregnant and postpartum patients with substance use disorder on the increased risk of overdose postpartum and when changing treatment, both at the time of discharge or at treatment change, and ensure connection to substance use treatment before, during, and after pregnancy.

They also want providers to identify and offer multiple treatment options for dealing with ongoing postpartum pain for patients with substance use disorder. That would also include communication between methadone clinics and obstetric providers when needed.

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