Mortality Rates Among U.S. Women of Reproductive Age, 1999-2019

Am J Prev Med. 2022 Apr;62(4):548-557. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2021.10.009. Epub 2022 Feb 5.


Introduction: High and increasing levels of pregnancy-related mortality and morbidity in the U.S. indicate that the underlying health status of reproductive-aged women may be far from optimal, yet few studies have examined mortality trends and disparities exclusively among this population.

Methods: All-cause and cause-specific mortality data for 1999-2019 were obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention WONDER Underlying Cause of Death database. Levels and trends in mortality between 1999 and 2019 for women aged 15-44 years stratified by age, race/ethnicity, and state were examined. Given the urgent need to address pregnancy-related health disparities, the correlation between all-cause and pregnancy-related mortality rates across states for the years 2015-2019 was also examined.

Results: Age-adjusted, all-cause mortality rates among women aged 15-44 years improved between 2003 and 2011 but worsened between 2011 and 2019. The recent increase in mortality among this age group was not driven solely by increases in external causes of death. Patterns differed by age, race/ethnicity, and geography, with non-Hispanic American Indian and Alaskan Native women having 2.3 and non-Hispanic Black women having 1.4 times the risk of all-cause mortality in 2019 compared with that of non-Hispanic White women. Age-adjusted all-cause mortality rates and pregnancy-related mortality rates were strongly correlated at the state level (r=0.75).

Conclusions: Increasing mortality among reproductive-aged women has substantial implications for maternal, women's, and children's health. Given the high correlation between pregnancy-related mortality and all-cause mortality at the state level, addressing the structural factors that shape mortality risks may have the greatest likelihood of improving women's health outcomes across the life course.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S.
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Mortality* / ethnology
  • Mortality* / trends
  • Pregnancy
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Women's Health* / ethnology
  • Women's Health* / statistics & numerical data
  • Young Adult