Learning from an unexpected death is one of the most effective ways to prevent future loss. Unfortunately, the U.S. does not consistently track pregnancy and childbirth-related deaths or routinely examine the circumstances surrounding them. Without comprehensive data to shed light on the tragedy of maternal mortality, progress will be challenging.

How can we understand what went wrong?

Best practice dictates that after a pregnant woman or new mother dies, a maternal mortality review committee convenes to discuss the events surrounding her death and recommend ways to prevent future tragedies. These review committees are composed of an interdisciplinary group of physicians, nurses, community health workers and public health leaders. Their work is invaluable in uncovering trends and developing new policies and practices to improve maternal health for all women.

How does data play a role in saving women’s lives?

MSD for Mothers is working with organizations like the Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs and the CDC Foundation to help states better understand why women are dying and to develop life-saving solutions. This work includes standardizing how states collect data to ensure that every maternal death is counted and helping states thoroughly review cases of women who have died.

MSD for Mothers’ goal is to publish the country’s first-ever report on maternal mortality. When that happens, the U.S. will be able to identify national trends, track progress, and create accountability to end preventable maternal deaths. The report is expected in 2018.

According to the CDC Foundation’s 2017 February report, 59% of all maternal deaths in the U.S. are preventable and mental health conditions are among the leading causes of maternal mortality.