Big Data’s Role In Childbirth And Maternal Death In The US

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Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Andrii Yalanskyi

Maternal mortality rates in the United States jumped over 25% between 2000 and 2013. The CDC uses data to better understand why the United States has the highest maternal death rates in the developed world. Big data allows researchers to dig deeper into the issue to better understand what’s occurring that’s leading to increased deaths for mothers.

Understaffed hospitals and medical errors are causing most of the deaths.

Big Data’s Role in the Equation

Researchers are still trying to pinpoint why birth injuries and maternal deaths are rising in the U.S. versus other developed nations. Data is limited, but the industry is evolving thanks to over 200 healthcare applications being developed in the last decade.

These applications have been able to improve patient outcomes in different areas of the healthcare industry.

Blue Shield has been able to adapt NantHealth which allows for cheaper, more effective treatment options and communication with patients.

Predictive analysis is also being deployed to better help understand a mother’s risks when giving birth. This analysis can consider:

  • Patient medical history
  • Family medical history
  • Complications that may arise

Predictive analysis will reduce pregnancy risks by allowing doctors to be able to predict potential patient issues when giving birth. The data can be used to better equip delivery rooms, and special kits can be created based on the data to ensure doctors and staff have all of the equipment available if something goes wrong in the delivery room.

Big data is also being fed into databases from social media, blood tests, doctor visits, email, forums and a variety of other mediums. The data is then being analyzed to better determine the risks that a mother may face.

Records are also being used to help understand what’s occurring in the United States that is leading to maternal deaths rising. It could be understaffing, which is leading to more mothers receiving less personal attention and care.

UC Davis’ Approach on Future Opportunities

UC Davis researchers, professors and analysts developed an outline in 2014 on ways to use data to improve maternity care in California. Researchers found that there are large data sets being helped by state agencies that can be used to help determine why maternal deaths are rising.

The data can come from the federal- or state-level.

California’s Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) has over 3.8 million records spanning 10 years that researchers can tap into. Data can also be found at the Department of Public Health and the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development.

What researchers were able to find was that women are facing multiple stressors that can impact their health, and that maternity care relies heavily on technology. The technological approach may be overused or underused, causing doctors to miss key red flags during a pregnancy.

The study also found that maternal healthcare is highly dependent on social services, and it may be these services which are lacking in many communities in the U.S.

Continuity of coverage is another factor that big data is analyzing, with many women covered until 60 days after their pregnancy. Continued coverage may reduce deaths that do not occur in the delivery room or shortly after giving birth.


Maternal death rates in the US are higher than they should be, plain and simple. Childbirth should be a safe experience, and expectant moms should be able to count on their healthcare providers to help them delivery safely. With the help of big data, a safer future could be on the horizon.

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