Over the past two decades, the U.S. maternal mortality rate has not improved while maternal
mortality rates have decreased for other regions of the world. Furthermore, the rate at which
women in the U.S. experience short-term or long-term negative health consequences due to
unexpected outcomes of pregnancy or childbirth has also steadily increased over the past few
decades, with nearly 50,000 women in the U.S. experiencing these health consequences in 2014.
Significant racial and ethnic disparities persist in both the rate of women in the U.S. who die due
to complications of pregnancy or delivery and the rate that women experience negative health
consequences due to unexpected pregnancy or childbirth outcomes.
Compared to any other racial or ethnic group,7 Black8 women experience the highest rates of
nearly all of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) severe maternal morbidity9
indicators.10 Black women in the U.S. are 3 to 4 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related
complications than White11 women in the U.S., and Native American12 women are more than 2
times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than White women in the U.S.13
Pregnancy-related mortality is also slightly elevated for Asian women (a 1.1 disparity ratio),14
and for Hispanic women in some geographic areas.15 Moreover, the risk of pregnancy-related
death is so elevated for Black women in certain regions of the U.S. that it is comparable to the
rate of pregnancy-related deaths16 in some developing countries.17 This racial disparity has not
improved in decades,18 and is also seen in other middle to high-income countries with
multiethnic populations.19 According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S.
maternal mortality ratio ranked 56th in the world in 2017.20 According to the National Center for
Health Statistics (NCHS), in 2018, the maternal mortality rate in the U.S. was 17.4 maternal
deaths per 100,000 live births, with 658 women dying of maternal causes.21 In 2019, the
maternal mortality rate in the U.S. was 20.1 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, with 754
women dying of maternal causes.
Author(s): U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
Publication Date: September 2021
Publication Site: U.S. Commission on Civil Rights