New Study Examines Disparities in Black Maternal Mortality by State

A new study, led by scholars at the University of Washington, finds that Black women were more likely to die during pregnancy or soon after in every year from 1999 through 2019 than women from every other major racial or ethnic group. Maternal mortality rates more than doubled for every racial and ethnic group from 1999 through 2019. Maternal mortality is defined by death from any cause except for accidents, homicides, and suicides, during or within one year after pregnancy.

The study also broke down the data by state and found that the racial disparity in maternal mortality is a nationwide problem and not restricted to the South. In 2019, the national maternal mortality ratio for all women in the U.S. was 32.1 per 100,000 live births. For Black women in 2019, the states with the highest maternal mortality ratios – meaning the proportion of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births – were Arizona, New Jersey, New York, and Georgia, along with the District of Columbia. Each state had a maternal mortality ratio greater than 100 for 100,000 live births. This is triple the national average.

The authors write that “the U.S. has a high rate of maternal mortality compared to other high-income countries, despite spending more per person on health care. Most maternal deaths are considered preventable because, in the U.S., maternal deaths are most often caused by problems that have very effective treatments, including bleeding after delivery, heart disease, high blood pressure, blood clots, and infections.”

The authors also note that “our study did not include data from the pandemic years. So far, maternal mortality has only been reported at the national level for those years, but reports suggest that maternal mortality rates have increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and that racial disparities have only gotten worse.”

The full study, “Trends in State-Level Maternal Mortality by Racial and Ethnic Group in the United States,” was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It may be accessed here.

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