According to a federal report, racial differences in maternal health have increased since the 1980s.
“Maternal mortality is recognized as a key indicator of the overall health of a nation, and the data and analysis in our report reflects unacceptable racial inequalities and a trend line that requires focused attention from the federal government,” Adegbile said. Wide racial inequalities in maternal health outcomes are related to differences in access to health care and the quality of services that women of color receive before, during and after childbirth.
An estimated 60% of pregnancy-related deaths are preventable, with the majority – 36% – occurring within a week of giving birth. Previous study found that black women had a similar incidence of pregnancy-related complications, including preeclampsia, seizures, placental abruption, and postpartum hemorrhage, as white women, but were two to three times more likely to die from these conditions.
Although socioeconomic factors are generally considered strong determinants of human health, the data show that maternal mortality rates among black women remain high regardless of their income or education level. The report suggests that women of color are more likely to face barriers to quality maternal health care than white women. Such barriers may include less likelihood of getting coverage, higher risk of chronic illness, and less likelihood of getting prevention and treatment services.
According to the report, women who do not receive antenatal care are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy than women who receive antenatal care.
Addressing inequalities in maternal health and mortality has become a key issue for a number of policymakers in recent years. Some support came with the passage of the COVID-19 Relief Bill in March, which included a provision giving states the ability to extend Medicaid postpartum care coverage from 60 days to one year.
Further actions are currently being considered. On Wednesday, the House Energy and Trade Committee put forward several provisions aimed at tackling inequalities in maternal health as part of the $ 3.5 trillion Democratic Majority Domestic Policy Bill.
These pieces of legislation provide for $ 275 million to diversify the perinatal health workforce and an additional $ 175 million to fund local organizations to address the social determinants of maternal health such as housing, nutrition and environmental conditions.