The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says homicide is a leading cause of traumatic death among new and expectant mothers, with higher risks for women younger than 20 or black, the Washington Post reports. A study in the March issue of the American Journal of Public Health documents 617 slayings from 1991 to 1999. That number markedly understates the actual toll because many states do not have reliable methods for tracking such deaths, researchers said.
The CDC study was lauded by public health experts for recognizing an overlooked phenomenon. Using data from more than 30 states, the CDC found that homicide ranked second, after auto accidents, among trauma deaths of pregnant women and new mothers. The study looked only at “injury deaths” and drew no comparison to deaths from medical causes. Researchers recommended that health officials improve the way they identify maternal homicides, linking information from autopsy records, police reports and birth and death records, for example, to develop a clearer portrait of victims and offenders. Few states do this.