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Despite many efforts at the state, city, and national levels over the past 70 years, a nationwide consensus on how best to identify, review, and prevent maternal deaths remains challenging. We present a brief history of maternal death surveillance in the United States and compare the three systems of national surveillance that exist today: the National Vital Statistics System, the Pregnancy Mortality Surveillance System, and maternal mortality review committees. We discuss strategies to address the perennial challenges of shared terminology and accurate, comparable data among maternal mortality review committees. Finally, we propose that with the opportunity presented by a systematized shared data system that can accurately account for all maternal deaths, state and local-level maternal mortality review committees could become the gold standard for understanding the true burden of maternal mortality at the national level.