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Despite being the wealthiest nation in the world, the United States continues to be one of the most dangerous countries for a mother to give birth, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control.
Compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic, maternal death rates rose by 40%, with the increase more than twice as high for Black women, who were already facing much higher rates than White women.
Rising each year, 1,205 women died of maternal causes in the U.S. in 2021, compared to 861 deaths in 2020, the CDC reported.
Measured by deaths per 100,000, the World Health Organization defines maternal mortality as “the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the duration and the site of the pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management, but not from accidental or incidental causes.”
Black Maternal Mortality rate continues to rise
It’s long been an issue disproportionately faced by Black women.
Some of the reasons for this disparity include medical racism, barriers to healthcare, and lack of access to care in underserved communities.
In recent years, some communities from Tulsa to NYC have embraced duola programs to help address the disparities. Yet the numbers continue to rise.
In 2021, the maternal mortality rate for Black women was 69.9 per 100,000 live births, compared to 26.6 per 100,000 for White women. Rates also increased as the maternal age increased.
The BBC reported that the U.S. maternal mortality rate was twice as high in the US than in the UK, Germany and France; and three times higher than in Spain, Italy, Japan and several other countries, according to the most recent global comparison data kept by the World Bank.
The Black Maternal “Momnibus” Act of 2021 has been introduced in Congress to provide pre- and post-natal support for Black mothers, including extending eligibility for certain benefits postpartum. Yet it hasn’t been passed.
In the United States, about 6.9 million women have minimal to maternal health care, according to March of Dimes.
“A high rate of cesarean sections, inadequate prenatal care, and elevated rates of chronic illnesses like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease may be factors contributing to the high U.S. maternal mortality rate. Many maternal deaths result from missed or delayed opportunities for treatment,” researchers from the Commonwealth Fund wrote in a report last year.
Meanwhile, medical racism remains an issue the country has so far failed to adequately address.