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Wisconsin Watch partners with Gigafact to produce fact briefs — bite-sized fact checks of trending claims. Read our methodology to learn how we check claims.


Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest the U.S. maternal mortality rate has increased over the past two decades. However, it cautions that a change in how data was collected inflated the numbers.

On paper, the maternal mortality rate has at least doubled in the past two decades — a statistic often repeated in the media, including by Wisconsin state Rep. Robyn Vining, a proponent of maternity health care. Between 2000 and 2020, the recorded rate went from 9.8 per 100,000 births to 23.8 per 100,000.

But the CDC says these “observed increases” are “largely due to the staggered implementation” of a checkbox marking pregnancy status at the time of death, which “increased identification of maternal deaths.” Accounting for it, predicted rates “did not change significantly from 1999 through 2017.”

The maternal mortality rate did jump to 32.9 per 100,000 in 2021, the latest data year available.

This Fact Brief is responsive to conversations such as this one.


Centers for Disease Control Table III. Observed and predicted maternal mortality rates: United States, 1999–2017 (Page 30)

Centers for Disease Control Maternal Mortality Rates in the United States, 2021

WisPolitics Rep. Vining: Re-introduces the Pregnancy Protection Act

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Tom Kertscher joined as a Wisconsin Watch fact checker in January 2023 and contributes to our collaboration with the The Gigafact Project to fight misinformation online. Kertscher is a former longtime newspaper reporter, including at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, who has worked as a self-employed journalist since 2019. His gigs include contributing writer for PolitiFact and sports freelancer for The Associated Press.