The number of women who have died from complications related to their pregnancies has tripled from 1996 to 2006, California Watch is reporting. Two possible reasons: An increase in cesarean sections and a growing number of overweight moms-to-be.

Just as intriguing: The state Department of Health refused for seven months to release the figures proving the death-rate increase. Officials at the department, however, finally confirmed that it has seen the biggest spike in deaths among pregnant women since the Great Depression.

The California Watch report states that “it's more dangerous to give birth in California than it is in Kuwait or Bosnia.” California's pregnancy death rate stands at 16.9 per 100,000 births — nearly quadruple the national goal of 4.3.

Similar factors might be causing an increase in deaths among expectant mothers nationwide. The Joint Commission, a national health-care accreditation and standards group, has issued an alert warning doctors to be on the lookout for obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and blood loss during c-sections.

One doctor noted that the preponderance of c-sections has increased 50 percent during the same period as the increase in deaths.

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