Black Women in Texas Are Twice as Likely to Experience Severe Maternal Morbidity Than White Women

A new University of Houston study has found that Black women in Texas are twice as likely to experience severe maternal morbidity (SMM) compared to their White peers.

Rather than maternal mortality, which is considered death as a result of pregnancy, delivery, or post-delivery complications, SMM cases are considered “near misses” for maternal death because they could have resulted in maternal mortality if they were not properly identified and treated.

The study found the primary reason for this extreme disparity in SMM cases among Texan women was due to disparities in the rate of preexisting health conditions among Black women compared to White women. Almost 80 percent of the Black-White SMM gap can be attributed to differences in preexisting health conditions. The other 20 percent was accounted for by other factors, such as differences in severity, hospital treatments, and physician biases.

The authors suggest the best way to combat the SMM gap among women in Texas is to address women’s health before they conceive. Currently, Texas has the highest share of uninsured women in the United States. The authors believe improving women’s access to Medicaid and regular check-ups could help address the racial gap in maternal morbidity and mortality.

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