The United States of America is the only developed country in the world that has seen an increase in maternal mortality over the last 2 decades. This is not only a serious issue in that country, but also part of a global crisis. Who would expect that in a country that has access to some of the best resources than many in the world, they would be experiencing such a serious crisis. According to a report published by Amnesty USA, $86 billion was spent on hospital related costs associated with pregnancy and childbirth in the United States. Despite this, a woman in the U.S. has a higher chance of dying from childbirth than in 40 other countries including Spain, Greece and Germany. More than two women die each day in the United States from pregnancy complications. The statistics are even worse for Black women in America.
In September 2015, I read a report that stated Black mothers have a risk 12 times higher than white women of dying from childbirth in New York City. I was horrified to read this statistic. These were based on numbers reported between 2006-2010. The stats come from the Pregnancy-Associated Maternal Mortality NYC report. It also showed that Latina women faced similar risks and Asian and Pacific Islander women were also four times as likely to die from pregnancy than white women in NYC. It’s terrible to see such a disparity and begs the question if quality of care differs in different racial communities. Dr. Lorraine Boyd, medical director of the city’s Bureau of Maternal, Infant and Reproductive Health, said that the main reasons have more to do with the overall health of certain communities rather than quality of care. The city’s health department said they were focused on working to reduce these rates.
Overall in the U.S, black women are 4 times as likely to die from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth according to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC). What seems to be the problem? It appears that the health of some communities is not as high. Also in low-income areas the resources are not necessarily the best. Some of the leading cause of death are hemorrhage, pregnancy-induced hypertension, embolism, infection, and chronic medical conditions. There are many similarities in causes of death between black and white women, but it seems, according to recent statistics, Black women tend to delay prenatal care at a rate twice as high as white women.
Racism has also been cited as one of the reasons Black women face higher levels of maternal mortality than other races in America because of access to and quality of care. The Affordable Care Act has helped in some cases with closing the gap resulting from health insurance coverage, but it’s still not enough. Big organizations and companies need to step up and make it a priority for change to happen.
Merck, a major pharmaceutical company, says it will spend $500 million globally in an effort to reduce maternal mortality. One of the strategies for improvement include creating more effective clinical routines when handling pregnancy-related emergencies.