Study Finds Severe Maternal Morbidity Rates Highest In Black Mothers

Black mothers are at the highest risk for maternal morbidity

According to a new study recently published in Obstetrics & Gynecology, women of color have significantly higher rates of severe birth-related problems when compared to non-Hispanic white women, and particularly among non-Hispanic black women.

Though maternal morbidity and mortality rates continue to decline in so many countries but the United States, a new look at maternal health-related complications and morbidity in America shows that across all women of color, rates of occurrence are higher than when compared to non-Hispanic white women.

The research University of Michigan Dr. Lindsay K. Admon and colleagues used was data from the National Inpatient Samples taken during 2012 to 2015 when defining the prevalence of conditions (including maternal morbidity) in non-Hispanic black women, non-Hispanic white women, Hispanic women, Asian or Pacific Islander women and Native American or Alaska Native women.

Related: Pregnancy Complications On The Rise Despite Efforts To Reduce Them

They found that among women of every other ethnic group looked at, deliveries compared to those of non-Hispanic white women had significantly higher rates of maternal morbidity. In 10,000 delivery hospitalizations among non-Hispanic black women, 231.1 incidences of severe maternal morbidity occurred, as compared to 139.2 per 10,000 in non-Hispanic white women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, severe maternal morbidity (SMM) includes outcomes of labor and delivery that are unexpected and in which there are short- or long-term consequences for a woman’s health.

When the researchers excluded cases that blood transfusion was the marker for a case of SMM, the only group in which there was a higher rate of incidence when compared to non-Hispanic white women was non-Hispanic black women. And, when looking at deliveries where mothers had multiple chronic conditions that existed comorbidly to pregnancy, the largest disparities were found among women who were racially and ethnically different from non-Hispanic white women.

The researchers believe that when assessing the data to plan and execute nest steps, the findings show that being a woman of color itself would seem a high-risk population when it came to problems during labor and delivery of children. Particularly when looking at women of color who have more than one prior existing health condition, the authors note that we should look at ways to best serve that vulnerable population before and after pregnancy and not just during labor.

Related: New Bill Looks to Reduce Infant and Maternal Mortality Rates in the U.S.

They believe that priority in healthcare facilities should be proactively targeting excellent standards of care for women of color, and Dr. Admon thinks that because there are underlying disparities in health care access before pregnancy, and particularly in vulnerable populations, we will continue to see high maternal morbidity complications. She believes we need to address these issues prior to pregnancy if we are to ultimately reduce the U.S. rates of severe maternal morbidity and mortality.


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