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Editorial
March 21, 2001

Examining Homicide's Contribution to Pregnancy-Associated Deaths

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Injury Prevention Research Program, Office of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, New York City Department of Health, New York, NY. Ms Frye is now with the Center for Health and Gender Equity, Takoma Park, Md.

JAMA. 2001;285(11):1510-1511. doi:10.1001/jama.285.11.1510

Maternal mortality has been defined traditionally as deaths "related to or aggravated by" pregnancy complications, excluding "accidental or incidental causes," occurring during pregnancy or within 42 days of termination.1 In other words, maternal deaths are those that would not have occurred if not for the pregnancy. This definition restricts the potential causal contribution of pregnancy to women's deaths, because only causes of death that are biologically related to the pregnancy are counted. However, some deaths are not biologically, but may be socially, related to the pregnancy and may not have occurred without pregnancy. To capture more completely all deaths occurring during or after pregnancy, the term "pregnancy-associated death," which includes "the death of any woman, from any cause, while she is pregnant—or within one year of termination of pregnancy," was developed.2 Concurrently, enhanced maternal mortality surveillance techniques were being developed and tested, leading to previously underestimated maternal mortality rates being recalculated.36

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