An American Issue: Maternal Mortality

Sophia Benitez

From report published on

The CDC recently issued a report that revealed deaths in pregnancy increased by 40% in the United States.  1,200 American women died in 2021 during pregnancy or shortly after childbirth.

While experts believe issues related to COVID 19 was the main reason for the 2021 spike, the US’s rate before COVID 19 was the highest it had been in decades.

In 2021, there were about 33 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births.  According to the report, the last time the government recorded a rate that high was in 1964. Previous government analyses concluded that 25% of maternal deaths in 2020-21 were COVID- related as the CDC did not fully recommend shots for pregnant women until August of 2021.   Because of this, vaccines among pregnant women were lower than the general population, especially among Black women who are disproportionately effected by maternal mortality. in 2021-particularly among black women. The maternal mortality rate is higher in the U.S than any other developed nation, particularly among women of color.

What is Maternal Mortality?

It is defined by the World Health Organization as, “the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the duration and site of the pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management but not from accidental or incidental causes.”

What Are Possible Reasons for the Increase?

One reason that comes up again and again has to do with racism within our medical institutions. Research has shown that regardless of income, women of color, specifically Black and Hispanic women, are treated differently than white women. According to a 2020 report by the CDC, the maternal mortality rate in the U.S. for non-Hispanic Black women was 55.3 deaths per 100,00p live births compared to 19.1 deaths per 100,000 for non-Hispanic white women. The disparity can be attributed to poorer care after delivery and discrimination among other factors.

How Does America Usually Compares To Other Developed Nations?

From based on WHO report.

The United States has long struggled with a higher MMR than other comparable nations.  According to The World Health Organization, America’s MMR in 2020 was more than three times the rate in most other high-income countries. Since 2000, the US’s MMR has been getting worse while in other developed nations, the rate has gone way down.  One possible (and probable) explanation is that, “The U.S. is the only country [in a recent WHO report] that does not provide universal health care, leaving nearly 8 million women of reproductive age uninsured.