Preventable pregnancy deaths in the U.S. are alarmingly high, new data shows. According to a new study by the CDC, black women in the U.S. are more likely to die from preventable pregnancy complications than white women.
Approximately 700 patients die from pregnancy-related problems every year in the US, but why those deaths occur is often undisclosed. Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention aimed to discover the underlying causes and disparities in pregnancy-related death.
Between 2011 and 2015, there were 3,410 pregnancy-related deaths in the United States. Researchers analyzed the deaths, which were either caused by a pregnancy complication, a chain of events stemming from the pregnancy, or health issues exacerbated by the pregnancy.
Federal health officials said a majority of these deaths could have been prevented at an alarmingly high level, and that black women were more than three times as likely to die due to a pregnancy-related issue than white women.
“The challenge we have in maternal mortality is that numbers have not declined,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, the principal deputy director of the CDC. “We compare to other developed countries as relatively poor in our maternal mortality rates. We have a lot we need to do to improve maternal mortality in the United States.”
Death rates varied significantly by ethnicity and race. Up to 42.8 per 100,000 pregnancy-related deaths were black women and 32.5 per 100,000 were Indigenous women. However, the death rate for white women in pregnancy was 13 per 100,000.
Hispanic and Latinx women saw the lowest death rate with 11.4 pregnancy-related deaths per every 100,000 live births.
Researchers say these disparities are most likely due to a combination of structural bias in health care, lack of access to postpartum and prenatal care, and higher rates of chronic conditions such as high blood pressure in non-white women. Postpartum depression, sadly, occurs in nearly 15% of births.
Approximately 80% of Americans are struggling with debt, which can impact a person’s ability to seek out healthcare and make it unaffordable. For instance, estrogen dominance affects millions of people, but not everyone seeks out help.
“There has been a growing body of research that is showing that structural racism is playing a role with regard to these disparities,” said Dr. Wanda Barfield. Barfield is the director of the CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health and assistant surgeon general in the U.S. Public Health Service.
“We’ve also seen persistent racial disparities regardless of certain factors, such as educational attainment,” said Barfield. “In addition to that, and perhaps even layered with that, is the variation in hospital quality.”
There were also disparities when it came to marriage. Unmarried patients were more likely to die from a pregnancy-related issue than married patients. Patients who had just graduated from high school also saw higher death rates than women with higher education levels.
Federal health officials also found that, among a set of 232 deaths between 2013 and 2017, up to 139 deaths (60%) could have been avoided if one or more reasonable changes had taken place at the patient, health care, or community level.
The new findings report that obstetric emergencies such as hemorrhaging or amniotic fluid embolism were the leading causes of death at delivery. Hemorrhaging, high blood pressure issues, and infections were the most common causes of deaths up to six days after delivery.