Story at a glance

  • New research shows that delivery-related deaths are dropping, especially among Black women.
  • At the same time, levels of substance abuse, as well as severe maternal morbidity, are increasing.
  • Black women have an 84 percent higher rate of severe maternal morbidity than white women.

Even as delivery-related deaths have fallen over the last decade, new research shows that more and more people are living with the short- and long-term effects of complications during childbirth. 

Severe maternal morbidity increased by 43 percent between 2008 and 2019, according to a new analysis by Premier, a private health care company, and affects Black women at an 84 percent higher rate than white women. An increasingly older maternal population is surviving childbirth at higher rates, with a 55 percent decrease in delivery-related deaths for Black women, but the maternal mortality rate remains at 20.1 per 100,000 live births — double that for Black women — according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

At the same time, the rate of birth mothers with documented substance misuse has tripled, according to the report, and the rate of infants born with neonatal abstinence syndrome has nearly doubled.


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Much of this, experts agree, is preventable and lawmakers seem poised to take action just ahead of Mother’s Day. In April, President Biden declared Black Maternal Health Week and committed to "pursuing systemic policies that provide comprehensive, holistic maternal health care that is free from bias and discrimination."

In Congress, the Black Maternal Health Caucus is preparing legislation ahead of a hearing by the House Oversight and Reform Committee, reported Roll Call, as part of a slew of action in Washington.

"The morbidity and mortality disparities that Black mothers face are not the results of isolated incidents. Our Nation must root out systemic racism everywhere it exists, including by addressing unequal social determinants of health that often contribute to racial disparities such as adequate nutrition and housing, toxin-free environments, high-paying job sectors that provide paid leave, and workplaces free of harassment and discrimination," said Biden in the proclamation.  


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Published on May 04, 2021