A new study is highlighting how maternal mortality rates in the United States are rising, and it’s calling attention to the particularly devastating impact it’s having on Black mothers—as well as Indigenous American and Alaska Native women.
For context, Yale Medicine defines maternal mortality as happening when “a woman dies in pregnancy, childbirth, or the postpartum period.”
More Americans Of All Races Are Dying From Pregnancy- Or Labor-Related Issues
The Journal of the American Medical Association published the study on Monday (Jul. 3). It focused on the maternal mortality ratios (MMRs) for various racial and ethnic groups in all 50 states between 1999 and 2019.
As a result, we should add that the data doesn’t consider maternal mortality deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Overall, researchers noted that MMRs increased at least twofold among all racial and ethnic groups (American Indian and Alaska Native; Black; Hispanic; Asian, Native Hawaiian, or Other Pacific Islander; and White) over the 20-year span.
Additionally, the results found, “In each year between 1999 and 2019, the Black population had the highest median state MMR.” This means that although maternal mortality is impacting more women overall, Black moms continue to die at the highest rate.
While the Black community consistently had the highest MMRs, the “largest increases” were among American Indian and Alaska Native mothers.
“The American Indian and Alaska Native population had the largest increases in median state MMRs between 1999 and 2019.”
Maternal mortality persists as a source of worsening disparities in many US states and prevention efforts during this study period appear to have had a limited impact in addressing this health crisis. https://t.co/ASm58MiqLz
— JAMA (@JAMA_current) July 3, 2023
Maternal Mortality Continues To Worsten In The U.S. Over Time
Harrowingly, there were also increases in maternal mortality rates as one honed into the 2010s, as noted by AP News.
Compared to the first decade of the study, the states of Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, New Jersey, and Texas saw a 93% MMR increase among Black mothers between 2009 and 2019.
As for American Indian and Alaska Native women, the states of Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin saw a 162% increase in maternal mortality.
All in all, the findings suggest that “American Indian and Alaska Native and Black individuals are at increased risk” of dying via maternal mortality.
“While maternal mortality remains unacceptably high among all racial and ethnic groups in the US, American Indian and Alaska Native and Black individuals are at increased risk, particularly in several states where these inequities had not been previously highlighted.”
The researchers wrapped up by noting, “Maternal mortality persists as a source of worsening disparities in many US states.”
AP News reports that Dr. Karen Joynt Maddox of the Washington University School of Medicine said the findings didn’t surprise her.
“I hate to say it, but I was not surprised by the findings. We’ve certainly seen enough anecdotal evidence in a single state or a group of states to suggest that maternal mortality is rising.”
She added, “It’s certainly alarming, and just more evidence we have got to figure out what’s going on and try to find ways to do something about this.”