Maternal Mortality in the US Higher Among Black Women

Pregnant African American woman holding her stomach in hospital
Postpartum cardiomyopathy, preeclampsia, and eclampsia are leading causes of maternal death for Black women.

HealthDay News — The maternal mortality rate among non-Hispanic Black women was higher than for non-Hispanic White women in 2016 and 2017, according to a study published online Aug. 12 in the American Journal of Public Health.

Marian F. MacDorman, Ph.D., from University of Maryland in College Park, and colleagues used 2016 to 2017 vital statistics mortality data with cause-of-death literals (words written on the death certificate) to assess racial and ethnic disparities in U.S. maternal mortality.

The researchers found that the maternal mortality rate for non-Hispanic Black women was 3.55 times higher than it was for non-Hispanic White women. Eclampsia/preeclampsia and postpartum cardiomyopathy were the leading causes of death for non-Hispanic Black women, with rates five times higher than those seen for non-Hispanic White women. Additionally, maternal mortality rates from obstetric embolism and obstetric hemorrhage were 2.3 to 2.6 times higher among non-Hispanic Black women than non-Hispanic White women. These four conditions accounted for 59 percent of the maternal mortality disparity between non-Hispanic Black women and non-Hispanic White women.

“These sobering findings highlight the urgent need to address racial and ethnic disparities in maternal deaths,” Diana W. Bianchi, M.D., director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, said in a statement. “Accurate data are essential to guide efforts to reduce maternal deaths, many of which are preventable, and to improve the equity of healthcare for women during and after pregnancy.”

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