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Maternal Death Rate Drops, But Racial Disparities Persist

In 2021, the maternal death rate among Black Americans was 69.9 per 100,000, which was 2.6 times higher than the rate for White women and much higher than other racial groups. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has revealed that 1,205 pregnant women died in 2021, representing a 40% increase in maternal deaths compared with 2020, when there were 861 deaths, and a 60% increase compared with 2019, when there were 754.[0]

Data from the World Health Organization (WHO) showed that high-income nations had an overall rate of 12 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2020, while low-income countries had a rate of 430 deaths per 100,000 live births.[1] The United States' maternal death rate was 32.9 deaths per 100,000 live births — more than ten times the estimated rates of other high-income countries.[2]

The CDC report showed that the maternal mortality rate among non-Hispanic Black individuals was 6.8 times higher than those women younger than 25. The number of fatalities among Hispanic women skyrocketed from 18 to 28 deaths per 100,000.[3]Before the pandemic, Hispanic women had lower rates than those of white women.[4]

Pregnancy leaves women more vulnerable to infectious diseases as their heart, lungs and kidneys already have to work harder during pregnancy.[5] The immune system is not depressed, but rather has been adjusted to accommodate the fetus.[6] Doctors say this is why the maternal death rate surged during the pandemic.

In the wake of the repeal of Roe v. Wade, it’s unlikely that maternal mortality rates will improve anytime soon.[7] A December 2022 study by the Commonwealth Fund found that compared to states where abortion is accessible, states that have banned, or are planning to ban, or have otherwise restricted abortion have higher rates of maternal mortality and infant death, especially among women of color.[8]

In 2022, a marked decrease in U.S. deaths of pregnant women was observed, according to new data. This follows a year in which the maternal mortality rate was the highest it had been in nearly six decades.[9] Preliminary figures show that deaths among pregnant women dropped back to pre-pandemic figures in 2022.

However, the new figures are a grim reminder of the importance of accessible healthcare services and the need to reduce health disparities among Black and Hispanic women.

0. “New report: More women are dying from pregnancy and childbirth New report: More women are dying from pregnancy …” WDJT, 16 Mar. 2023, https://www.cbs58.com/news/new-report-more-women-are-dying-from-pregnancy-and-childbirth

1. “U.S. Maternal Mortality Rates Skyrocketed in 2021, in Sign That U.S. Is “Not Faring All That Well”” The New Republic, 14 Mar. 2023, https://newrepublic.com/post/171192/us-maternal-mortality-rates-skyrocketed-2021-cdc-report

2. “Why US mothers are more likely to die in childbirth” BBC, 17 Mar. 2023, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-64981965

3. “SIDS rose for Black infants during early pandemic and the cause is unknown, CDC finds” NBC News, 13 Mar. 2023, https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/sids-black-infants-pandemic-risk-safety-cdc-rcna74343

4. “Why maternal mortality rate surged by 40% when deaths are preventable” USA TODAY, 17 Mar. 2023, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2023/03/16/maternal-mortality-rate-surging-again/11465170002/

5. “Pandemic caused 40% increase in deaths of pregnant women as COVID exacerbated underlying conditions” Daily Mail, 16 Mar. 2023, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11867789/Pandemic-caused-40-increase-deaths-pregnant-women-COVID-exacerbated-underlying-conditions.html

6. “COVID Worsened a Health Crisis Among Pregnant Women” Yahoo News, 16 Mar. 2023, https://news.yahoo.com/covid-worsened-health-crisis-among-115231025.html

7. “The U.S. Maternal Mortality Rate Soared in 2021” The Cut, 16 Mar. 2023, https://www.thecut.com/2023/03/maternal-mortality-2021.html

8. “Maternal mortality rate rose again in 2021, hitting Black women hardest: report” The Hill, 16 Mar. 2023, https://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/3904228-maternal-mortality-rate-rose-again-in-2021-hitting-black-women-hardest-report

9. “Pregnancy Deaths” Kenosha News, 16 Mar. 2023, https://www.kenoshanews.com/pregnancy-deaths/image_c1686339-ef14-59cc-977f-05747bfb1238.html

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