Most American women experience complications during delivery

Research Activities, July 2011, No. 371

Over 9 out of every 10 women giving birth in the United States had some complication in 2008, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). According to data from the Federal agency, 94 percent of women hospitalized for pregnancy and delivery had complications such as: premature labor, urinary infection, anemia, diabetes, vomiting, bleeding, laceration of the area between the vagina and anus during delivery, abnormal fetal heart rate, advanced maternal age (over 35 years), and hypertension and eclampsia (a condition associated with high blood pressure that can involve swelling and seizures).

AHRQ also found that among these women in 2008:

  • Hospital stays for pregnancies with complications averaged 2.9 days, while the average hospital stay for an uncomplicated delivery was 1.9 days.
  • A hospital stay for a complicated pregnancy averaged $4,100, nearly 50 percent more costly than a delivery without any health issues ($2,600).
  • Pregnancy- and delivery-related complications accounted for $17.4 billion, or nearly 5 percent of total U.S. hospital costs.

This AHRQ News and Numbers summary is based on data from Complicating Conditions of Pregnancy and Childbirth, 2008 ( The report uses data from the Agency's 2008 Nationwide Inpatient Sample. For information about this AHRQ database, go to Databases and Related Tools from HCUP: Fact Sheet .

For other information, or to speak with an AHRQ data expert, please contact Linwood Norman at or call (301) 427-1248.

Page last reviewed July 2011
Internet Citation: Most American women experience complications during delivery: Research Activities, July 2011, No. 371. July 2011. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.