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49 people died in Wisconsin last year during or within a year of their pregnancies, review finds

State’s Maternal Mortality Review Team has previously determined nearly all pregnancy-related deaths are preventable

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A woman has an ultrasound to verify her pregnancy
A woman has an ultrasound to verify her pregnancy inside the Hope Medical Group for Women in Shreveport, La., Friday, April 15, 2022. Wisconsin’s health department has accounted for 49 people who died in 2023 during or within one year of their pregnancies. Gerald Herbert/AP Photo

Nearly 50 pregnant people in Wisconsin died last year during or within one year of their pregnancies, according to a state health department team that has repeatedly found nearly all pregnancy-related deaths are preventable.

Wisconsin’s health department has accounted for 49 pregnancy-associated deaths. The state has yet to determine how many of those deaths are causally related to pregnancy, however.

While the number of deaths last year is slightly down from 2022, the toll remains similar with each year since 2020 despite efforts to raise awareness and reduce pregnancy-related deaths.

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A health department spokesperson said the reported total for 2023 could still change, for example, if a death certificate is amended or filed late.

The Wisconsin Maternal Mortality Review Team works within the state’s health department and studies these deaths, trying to discern where cases fell through the cracks in health care. The team asks whether the person would still be alive had they never been pregnant.

Ann Ledbetter, a team member and certified nurse-midwife, told WPR in December the state has been trying to reduce how often people die during or after pregnancy.

Among pregnancy-related deaths from 2017 to 2019, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found about a quarter of deaths happened during pregnancy, another quarter happened during or days after delivery, and more than half of deaths happened between one week and one year after delivery.

Below is the annual total of pregnancy-associated deaths in Wisconsin, according to the Wisconsin Maternal Mortality Review Team: 

  • 2023: 49
  • 2022: 51
  • 2021: 56
  • 2020: 49
  • 2019: 38
  • 2018: 27
  • 2017: 43
  • 2016: 37

Editor’s note: This article and its headline was corrected June 10 to reflect that Wisconsin’s health department has accounted for 49 pregnancy-associated deaths in 2023. The state has yet to determine how many of those 49 deaths are related to a person’s pregnancy.

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