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U.S. Is an Outlier When It Comes to Maternal Mortality — and Not in Good Way

Article

The U.S. maternal mortality is 10 times higher than the rate in countries such as Australia and Japan.

© djoronimo  stock.adobe.com

© djoronimo stock.adobe.com


Not only does the United States have its highest rate since the 1960s of pregnancy-linked deaths, but the rate continues to climb, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. 

Out of 3,664,292 U.S. births in 2021, the number of women who perished during pregnancy or within 42 days of giving birth reached 1,205. That was 40% higher than the 2020 rate.

For every 100,000 live births in 2021, America lost 32.9 mothers, compared to 23.8 mothers in 2020, based on data from the National Vital Statistics System.

With some states curbing access to abortions, even for potentially lethal pregnancy complications, death rates may rise even more soon. Other concerns include an increasing number of shuttered rural maternity wards and any potential limits to Medicaid, upon which some pregnant women depend for healthcare costs.

America's 2021 rate was more than 10 times the 2020 maternal mortality death rates in Australia, Austria, Israel, Spain and Japan. In those countries, from 2 to 3 mothers out of every 100,000 died in childbirth, according to the World Health Organization.

The death rate was higher among all countries deemed high-income, with 12 deaths per 100,000 live births, WHO says. But that rate was still less than half of the 32.9 deaths per 100,000 in the U.S.

Of all American maternal deaths in 2021, 84%were preventable, the CDC says.

One cause was the choice of some soon-to-be moms to refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19, despite research clearly showing that they were among the most at risk of dying.

But COVID-19 wasn't the sole factor in 2021 for maternal mortality during pregnancy, during childbirth or shortly after childbirth. Racial background also was highly associated, as CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics shows.


For every 100,000 live births in 2021, there were 69.9 maternal deaths for Black women, compared with 28 among Latino women and 26.6 for White women. 

Other risk factors include obesity, type 2 diabetes and preeclampsia.

Once babies are born, women may suffer post-birth bleeding, postpartum depression, substance abuse or, for new black mothers, a climb in cardiac deaths, the CDC says.

With some states curbing access to abortions, even for potentially lethal pregnancy complications, death rates may rise even more soon. Other concerns include an increasing number of shuttered rural maternity wards and any potential limits to Medicaid, upon which some pregnant women depend for healthcare costs.

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