Below, please find a list of frequently asked questions, helpful facts and data surrounding maternal morbidity and mortality.

  • Improving Maternal Health in Harris County is a community plan that outlines key findings, recommendations and action items that address maternal morbidity and mortality. The plan is a project of Houston Endowment and is based on extensive research and deep knowledge of Harris County. The community plan was created in response to the unacceptably high rates of maternal morbidity and mortality in Texas.
  • The comprehensive plan presents a long-term strategy that incorporates clinical, community-based and systems-change strategies; capitalizes on existing initiatives and funding streams; tests innovative methodologies; and embraces advocacy when necessary.
  • Maternal morbidity is any physical or mental illness or disability directly related to pregnancy and/or childbirth.
  • Maternal mortality is the death the death of a woman while pregnant or within one year of the end of the pregnancy, from any cause related to, or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management.Top Causes of Maternal Mortality
  • Maternal morbidity and maternal mortality are both largely preventable. Maternal mortality rates are only part of the story; that is, maternal deaths are a tragic outcome related to a much bigger problem. Every maternal death starts as a complication, and life-threatening complications are as much as 50 times more common than maternal death.Servere Maternal Mobidity
  • The best data on the rate of maternal mortality in Texas comes from a study published in 2018 in the Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, which estimates the state’s rate between 14.6 –18.6 deaths per 100,000 live births.
  • Texas’ rate falls in the middle of state rankings.
  • The U.S. has the highest rate of maternal mortality among developed nations.


Texas Maternal Mortality Rates 2012, Deaths per 100,000 Live Births

  • The rate of severe maternal morbidity in Harris County in 2015 was 238 per 10,000 deliveries (2.4 percent), which was 20 percent higher than the Texas average, which was higher than the U.S. average (Improving Maternal Health in Harris County: A Community Plan, 2018).
    • Based on the total number of hospital deliveries by year (2008-2015) of women who had at least one diagnosis code indicating an incidence of severe maternal morbidity
  • Between 2008 and 2015, the rate of severe maternal morbidity in Harris County increased by 53 percent, greater than the overall increase across Texas of 15 percent.Trend in SMM Harris County vs U.S.


  • Out of the 71,252 women who delivered in Harris County in 2015, one in five women (22 percent) had at least one condition that put them at higher risk for severe maternal morbidity, including hypertension, diabetes, obesity and mental illness, including depression and other conditions. (Improving Maternal Health in Harris County: A Community Plan, 2018).Rate of SMM in Harris County in 2015, by Zip Code
  • Maternal mortality rises above income or education levels and affect women no matter who they are, however, African American women and women over age 35 bear the greatest risk for maternal death (Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, 2018).Texas Maternal Mortality Rates 2012, Deaths per 100,000 Live Births
  • Top causes of maternal morbidity and mortality:
    • Drug overdose
    • Cardiac event
    • Homicide
    • Suicide
    • Sepsis
  • Stress also plays a huge role in maternal health.

Top Causes of Maternal Mortality

  • Between 2012 and 2015, the top causes of maternal-related deaths in Texas included: drug overdose, with the majority being due to overdose of illicit or licit prescription drugs; cardiac events, including heart attacks and heart failure after delivery; homicide; suicide; and infection/sepsis (Texas Health and Human Services Commission, 2018).Top Causes of Maternal Mortality