Racial and ethnic disparities in maternal mortality — deaths related to pregnancy or childbirth — in the United States may be larger than previously reported, suggests a study funded by the National Institutes of Health. By re-examining information on death certificates from 2016 and 2017, researchers found that the maternal mortality rate among non-Hispanic Black women was 3.5 times higher than among non-Hispanic white women. Previously, standard analyses had indicated a 2.5-times-higher death rate for Black women.
The new analysis also revealed that these disparities were concentrated among a few causes of death. Postpartum cardiomyopathy (disease of the heart muscle) and the blood pressure disorders preeclampsia and eclampsia were leading causes of maternal death for Black women, with mortality rates five times higher than those for white women. Pregnant and postpartum Black women were two to three times more likely than white women to die of hemorrhage (severe bleeding) or embolisms (blood vessel blockages).
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