After the leak of a U.S. Supreme Court draft that would overturn national abortion protections under the Roe v. Wade precedent, pregnancy care and childbirth in the U.S. have received increased scrutiny. One alarming such statistic shining a light on the problems faced by U.S. mothers and pregnant women is the rise of maternal mortality in the country. Overall maternal mortality rose slightly between 2019 and 2020 – the latest years on record – and took a jump up for Black and Latino mothers.
While the reasons for the increase are not completely understood, Covid-19 is suspected to have played a role as it had a graver effect of U.S. communities of color as well as pregnant people. While Latino mother still have a lower-than-average likelihood to die because of pregnancy or childbirth, Black women experience disproportionately higher rates of maternal mortality than any other group in the country.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the National Vital Statistics System, more than 55 maternal deaths occurred for every 100,000 live births in 2020 among Black women – this is almost triple the rate for white women.
The CDC names large discrepancies in the quality of healthcare Black people receive, underlying chronic conditions of Black mothers as well as structural racism and implicit bias as the reasons for why this crass disparity exists, also adding that many people of color in the U.S. are prevented from "having fair opportunities for economic, physical, and emotional health."
Long-term data for maternal deaths in the U.S. is harder to come by as CDC outlets with differing methodologies have taken turns to publish the numbers. While this complicates the analysis of maternal mortality trends over time, the rival PMSS reporting system also finds the same stark prevalence of Black maternal mortality. The CDC suggests that healthcare providers should prioritize managing chronic conditions of Black mothers, question own biases, research discrepancies in care and standardize protocols to start addressing the crisis of Black pregnancy-related deaths.