Several articles have indicated that the maternal health crisis is significantly worsening, especially in terms of maternal mortality. Maternal deaths are defined to be the death of a woman who is pregnant or is 42 days from delivery from any non-accidental cause related to the pregnancy itself. In 2021, the US had one of its highest maternal mortality rates in history. While these rising rates of maternal deaths can be partially attributed to the pandemic health crisis, the pandemic cannot explain why minority women, especially Black women, have significantly higher rates.
While the pandemic exacerbated this crisis, maternal mortality has been an issue for much longer. In a jarring statistic, the CDC reported the death rate for Black women to be 69.9 deaths per 100,000 live births. This is 2.6x higher than the rate for white women, and indicates a deep racial disparity in medical treatment and unequal access to healthcare. Overall, maternal mortality is significantly increasing, as 1,205 women died of maternal causes in 2021 compared to 861 deaths in 2020. While maternal deaths differed among race and ethnicity, they also varied amongst age groups. As women became older maternal mortality rose. This reality is alarming, as 84% of these deaths are preventable- especially if medical access, quality, and bias is improved. Systemic racism, lack of staff, and restrictions to medical care contribute to the crisis.
More must be done to address the disproportionate number of deaths for minority women, as well as the nation as a whole regressing in regards to maternal mortality.
By Olivia LaMarco, Policy Intern