CDC: 2020 Maternal Deaths Surged Among Black Women

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The maternal mortality rate increased again in 2020, especially among Black and Hispanic women, according to a CDC report.

From 2019 to 2020, the maternal death rate in the U.S. increased from 20.1 to 23.8 per 100,000 live births, reported Donna Hoyert, PhD, of the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), in NCHS Health E-Stats.

Racial disparities widened further in 2020, with the maternal death rate for non-Hispanic Black women now roughly three times that of both non-Hispanic white women and Hispanic women.

Among Black women, the mortality rate from 2019 to 2020 increased from 44.0 to 55.3 per 100,000 live births. Among Hispanic women, the rate increased from 12.6 to 18.2 per 100,000. No significant increase in maternal deaths was seen among non-Hispanic white women (17.9 to 19.1 per 100,000).

“This is heartbreaking, and demonstrates the need for further renewed efforts to understand these disproportionate increases in maternal mortality experienced by non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic pregnant persons,” said Kjersti Aagaard, MD, PhD, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at the Baylor School of Medicine in Houston, who was not involved in this research.

“Key will be understanding the relative contributions of not only COVID-19 disease, but underlying comorbidities and acute events that lend to these inequalities and injustices of maternal disease and death,” Aagaard told MedPage Today.

Maternal mortality has continued to trend upward in recent years, although the CDC has stated that nearly two-thirds of these deaths are preventable. Many have called attention to glaring racial disparities in severe pregnancy outcomes, as American Indian, Alaskan Native, and Black women remain at a twofold to threefold risk of maternal death compared to white women.

The latest NCHS report analyzed data from the National Vital Statistics System mortality file. In 2020, there were 861 maternal deaths in the U.S., compared to 754 in 2019.

Maternal mortality rates in 2020 increased with age. Women who were age 40 and up were nearly eight times more likely to experience maternal death than those age 25 and under.

  • ≥40 years: 107.9 per 100,000 live births
  • 25-29 years: 22.8 per 100,000
  • <25 years: 13.8 per 100,000

Hoyert noted that maternal mortality rates fluctuate from year to year because of the relatively small number of these events, as well as issues associated with the reporting of maternal mortality on death certificates.

  • Amanda D’Ambrosio is a reporter on MedPage Today’s enterprise & investigative team. She covers obstetrics-gynecology and other clinical news, and writes features about the U.S. healthcare system. Follow

Disclosures

Hoyert disclosed no conflicts of interest.

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