Maternal Mortality Rates in the United States, 2020




This report updates a previous one that showed maternal mortality rates for 2018 and 2019 (2).
In 2020, 861 women were identified as having died of maternal causes in the United States,
compared with 754 in 2019 (3). The maternal mortality rate for 2020 was 23.8 deaths per
100,000 live births compared with a rate of 20.1 in 2019 (Table).
In 2020, the maternal mortality rate for non-Hispanic Black women was 55.3 deaths per 100,000
live births, 2.9 times the rate for non-Hispanic White women (19.1) (Figure 1 and Table). Rates
for non-Hispanic Black women were significantly higher than rates for non-Hispanic White and
Hispanic women. The increases from 2019 to 2020 for non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic women
were significant. The observed increase from 2019 to 2020 for non-Hispanic White women was
not significant.

Author(s): Donna L. Hoyert

Publication Date: 23 Feb 2022

Publication Site: CDC Stacks


A Woke Panic on Maternal Mortality



The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has created the public concern about black maternal mortality. In February, the CDC released data showing that the maternal mortality rate for black women is 2.9 times higher than the rate for white women. It’s a worrisome statistic, yet the CDC’s own data, as well as a study from the CDC Foundation, provide crucial (and generally unreported) context.

To be clear, even a single death of a pregnant woman is one too many. But the overwhelming majority of women survive motherhood: in 2020, according to the CDC, 861 women in the United States died related to pregnancy, out of a total of about 3.6 million births—a rate of 0.02 percent. Just over 350 were white, while just under 300 were black. Scientifically speaking, it’s hard to draw society-wide conclusions from such a small sample. It’s even harder when you recognize that the CDC statistics include deaths that occurred up to a year after delivery, as well as those caused by underlying and preexisting medical conditions that pregnancy may have aggravated. And the CDC admits that the systems for identifying mortality rates are prone to error.


The panel found that less than about a third of the preventable deaths, across all races, were attributable to individual providers. It did not cite racial bias as the reason. Yet the academic and media narrative leads to the assumption that black mothers are dying because doctors and nurses are racist. This leads to a corresponding claim that black mothers would die less often if they saw black doctors, which some call “racial concordance.” These are strange assertions, since Hispanic maternal mortality is lower than the rate for whites, which wouldn’t be true if medical professionals were racist. Yet these claims are still being used to justify discriminatory and dangerous policies across health care.

Author(s): Stanley Goldfarb, Benita Cotton-Orr

Publication Date: 18 Nov 2022

Publication Site:

Texas Maternal Death Data to Be Published Post-Midterms



Texas health officials have missed a key window to complete the state’s first major updated count of pregnancy related deaths in nearly a decade, saying the findings will now be released next summer, most likely after the Legislature’s biennial session.

The delay, disclosed earlier this month by the Department of State Health Services, means lawmakers won’t likely be able to use the analysis, covering deaths from 2019, until the 2025 legislative cycle. The most recent state-level data available is nine years old.

In a hearing this month with the state’s Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Review Committee, DSHS commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt said the agency wanted to better align its methodology with that of other states, and that there hadn’t been enough staff and money to finish the review for a scheduled Sept. 1 release.


Ortique said the state has already identified 149 potential maternal deaths in 2019, of which 118 have been analyzed by the committee to see if they were pregnancy-related. Six newly identified deaths may be added to that group, she said. The numbers cover deaths during the pregnancy through one year after giving birth.

The state has published a maternal death report every other year since 2014, often based on preliminary data updated later. For example, the maternal death report in 2018 identified 29 deaths in 2012 that were not included in the previous report. The committee also released updating findings from its most recent report, studying deaths from 2013, at the Sept. 2 meeting.

Out of 175 potential maternal deaths in 2013, 70 have since been determined to be pregnancy-related.

Author(s): Julian Gill and Jeremy Blackman, San Antonio Express-News

Publication Date: 14 Sept 2022

Publication Site: Governing

Racial Disparities in Maternal Health




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

A Louisiana senator defends his statements on the state’s Black maternal health



Black pregnant women continue to face disproportionately high pregnancy-related deaths, with data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicating a 26 percent increase in the maternal mortality rate for Black women since the start of the pandemic. 

Though researchers do not have an explanation for the disparities, the research suggests it’s a culmination of institutional racism and other health factors, such as the increased risk of obesity and hypertension in Black women. Howell also added that stress and a lack of access to quality prenatal care further exacerbates this issue. 

“It really does boil down to how public health officials relate to Black women who are giving birth,” Howell said. “Statistics about Black maternal mortality are high across the board, no matter what your educational level is, no matter what your insurance level is.” 

In 2018, tennis star Serena Williams opened up in an interview with Vogue magazine about encountering severe health complications after giving birth because doctors neglected to listen about her existing medical conditions.

“When you have someone like Serena Williams having problems giving birth, and not being treated properly by nurses and doctors when she complains about not feeling well, then you look at the doctor of someone who is poor in Louisiana, and has the same kind of problem — they are probably treated even worse,” Howell said.

Author(s): Tat Bellamy-Walker

Publication Date: 23 May 2022

Publication Site: NBC News

Achievements in Public Health, 1900-1999: Healthier Mothers and Babies




Despite the dramatic decline in infant and maternal mortality during the 20th century, challenges remain. Perhaps the greatest is the persistent difference in maternal and infant health among various racial/ethnic groups, particularly between black and white women and infants. Although overall rates have plummeted, black infants are more than twice as likely to die as white infants; this ratio has increased in recent decades. The higher risk for infant mortality among blacks compared with whites is attributed to higher LBW incidence and preterm births and to a higher risk for death among normal birthweight infants (greater than or equal to 5 lbs, 8 oz [greater than or equal to 2500 g]) (18). American Indian/ Alaska Native infants have higher death rates than white infants because of higher SIDS rates. Hispanics of Puerto Rican origin have higher death rates than white infants because of higher LBW rates (19). The gap in maternal mortality between black and white women has increased since the early 1900s. During the first decades of the 20th century, black women were twice as likely to die of pregnancy-related complications as white women. Today, black women are more than three times as likely to die as white women.

During the last few decades, the key reason for the decline in neonatal mortality has been the improved rates of survival among LBW babies, not the reduction in the incidence of LBW. The long-term effects of LBW include neurologic disorders, learning disabilities, and delayed development (20). During the 1990s, the increased use of assisted reproductive technology has led to an increase in multiple gestations and a concomitant increase in the preterm delivery and LBW rates (21). Therefore, in the coming decades, public health programs will need to address the two leading causes of infant mortality: deaths related to LBW and preterm births and congenital anomalies. Additional substantial decline in neonatal mortality will require effective strategies to reduce LBW and preterm births. This will be especially important in reducing racial/ethnic disparities in the health of infants.

Approximately half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended, including approximately three quarters among women aged less than 20 years. Unintended pregnancy is associated with increased morbidity and mortality for the mother and infant. Lifestyle factors (e.g., smoking, drinking alcohol, unsafe sex practices, and poor nutrition) and inadequate intake of foods containing folic acid pose serious health hazards to the mother and fetus and are more common among women with unintended pregnancies. In addition, one fifth of all pregnant women and approximately half of women with unintended pregnancies do not start prenatal care during the first trimester. Effective strategies to reduce unintended pregnancy, to eliminate exposure to unhealthy lifestyle factors, and to ensure that all women begin prenatal care early are important challenges for the next century.

Author(s): Division of Reproductive Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, CDC.

Publication Date: 1 October 1999

Publication Site: CDC MMWR