Large Rise Seen in Serious Birth Complications in U.S.

There has been a 45 percent increase in serious birth complications in U.S. hospitals in recent years, a new report says.

The rate rose from 101 per 10,000 delivery hospitalizations to 147 per 10,000 between 2006 and 2015, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

In 2015, rates of serious birth complications were highest among poor mothers, those older than 40, those who were uninsured or on Medicaid, and those who lived in large cities.

Rates of acute kidney failure, shock, mechanical ventilation use and sepsis at delivery all more than doubled during the 10-year period, the report said.

Some serious birth complications involved medical procedures.

For example, in 2015 blood transfusions were given in more than half of deliveries among mothers who were in shock, had an amniotic fluid embolism, were experiencing a sickle cell disease crisis or developed blood clots. One-third of women who went into shock while delivering had a hysterectomy.

There were significant racial and ethnic disparities among women who had severe complications during birth, according to the report, released Tuesday.

While there was an overall decrease in deaths, black women were three times more likely than white women to die as a result of delivering a baby in 2015 (11 versus 4 deaths per 100,000 delivery hospitalizations, respectively).

Compared with white women, severe delivery complications were 110 percent more likely among black women, 40 percent more likely among Hispanic women and 20 percent more likely among Asian/Pacific women.

"With these data in hand, state and federal agencies, patient safety experts and health systems can evaluate maternal morbidity trends in greater depth, a vital step before addressing the challenge," AHRQ Director Gopal Khanna said in an agency news release.

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