Washington better than most states in maternal mortality, but there is more to do

August 8, 2018

USA Today recently published the article “Hospital know how to protect mothers. They just aren’t doing it,” which highlights the rising maternal mortality rate in the United States during the last three decades. The most current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data from 2014 places the US pregnancy-related mortality ratio at 18 deaths per 100,000 live births (nearly three times higher than it was in 1987), and 50-60 percent of those deaths were preventable. Despite our leadership in many other areas of health care, our nation is among the worst developed for maternal mortality and morbidity — both death and serious illness for mothers.

The pregnancy-related death ratio in Washington State from 2014-2015 was 9 per 100,000 live births —significantly less than the national average. However, in an effort to continue to promote the very best care and safety to patients in Washington, WSHA launched Maternity Watch in fall 2017. This is a new program designed to optimize early recognition and response to maternal warning signs for severe hypertension/preeclampsia, maternal hemorrhage, sepsis and cardiopulmonary events to reduce severe maternal morbidity and mortality. The program utilizes a simple screening tool and algorithm to identify and track the combination of factors that result in bad outcomes. With about 80 percent of hospitals participating in this program, more than 90 percent of pregnant women in the state will benefit. We encourage all WSHA members to participate and take advantage of these resources.

Washington State is also fortunate in that our Department of Health (DOH) received a legislative mandate to convene a formal Maternal Mortality Review Panel, including multidisciplinary representation from across the state, to evaluate maternal deaths and propose recommendations to address the panel’s findings. WSHA has worked closely with DOH in supporting and participating in the Maternal Mortality Review Panel activities and ensuring that the panel’s findings and recommendations are incorporated into the Safe Deliveries Roadmap program. Promoting safe births for women and babies continues to be one of WSHA’s patient safety priorities, and one that will help lead to healthy generations to come.


Amber Weiseth
WSHA Assistant Director of Maternal Infant Health Initiatives, Patient Safety


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