Racial and ethnic disparities in U.S. maternal mortality may be larger than previously reported, according to a study published yesterday by the American Journal of Public 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 researchers found similar maternal mortality rates for Hispanic and white women, in contrast to previous analyses that found lower mortality for Hispanic women.
“These sobering findings highlight the urgent need to address racial and ethnic disparities in maternal deaths,” said Diana Bianchi, M.D., director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, which funded the study. “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.”