Maternal mortality in the United States has declined by 50% during the last decade. This decline took place at the same time as changes in the availability and use of contraceptive measures, including temporary contraceptives and sterilization. To examine the impact of these changes on mortality we estimated the reproductive mortality rate, which includes pregnancy-related deaths as well as deaths from the side effects of contraceptive methods. The estimated reproductive mortality rate fell by 73% from 1955 to 1975. The decrease was greater for women younger than 35 years. The slower decline for women aged 35 years and older was due to oral-contraception-related deaths. By 1975, pregnancy prevention was responsible for nearly as many deaths as pregnancy itself. The reproductive mortality rate is more appropriate than the maternal mortality rate for evaluating the health risks of reproduction and contraception. We urge that national surveillance of maternal mortality should be expanded to include deaths associated with contraceptive methods.