A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting that Black women are 3-4 times more likely to die during and just after pregnancy.
In 2021, there was a 40% increase in pregnancy-related deaths.
Around 53% of maternal mortality cases happen after the first week of childbirth, but there’s a risk up to a year after delivery.
Researchers say that the causes vary based on race, with Hispanic and white women more likely to die from mental health conditions, like suicide and accidental drug overdoses.
The risk lasts long after delivery.
Research shows that mental health conditions are the leading cause of maternal mortality overall.
Blood loss is the second leading cause of pregnancy-related death.
“We know that many women don’t have access to the preventive and emergency care that they need during pregnancy and after pregnancy,” said U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy. “Part of that is that many women don’t have the extended coverage that they need for postpartum care.”
According to Dr. Murthy, Black women are more likely to die from cardiac conditions, like complications from high blood pressure.
“We see that there are longstanding structural issues and barriers that have prevented Black women and women of color more broadly from getting the kind of care that they need,” continued Dr. Murthy.
While every case is unique, the CDC researchers estimated that more than 80% of pregnancy-related deaths are preventable.
Doctors said more awareness is needed, as well as better access to overdose-reversing drugs like Narcan.
Researchers added that what women need is better access to midwives and doulas, which could serve as mental and emotional support during and after pregnancy.
While the data does not explain why pregnant Black women are more likely to die from cardiac conditions, CDC data from 2019 found that Black Americans were 30% more likely to die from heart disease than their white counterparts.
Doctors said structural racism also plays a role in the stark inequities in maternal mortality, adding that differences between the types of conditions and issues affecting different demographic group make it difficult to tackle the issue in a consistent way.