Mamas on Bedrest: Minority Mamas are More Likely to Die Giving Birth

August 8th, 2012

At least that is what statistics released by the US Centers for Disease Control and prevention indicate. According to a recent report, minority women in the United States are more likely to die during and immediately after childbirth than Caucasian women. According to their report,

“Black, Hispanic and Asian women – and a handful of white women not born in the U.S. – accounted for 41% of all births nationwide between 1993 and 2006, but for 62% of pregnancy-related deaths.”

The actual numbers are really quite eye opening. For every 100,000 babies born to white women, between 7 and 9 mothers died from complications related to pregnancy. Yet, in comparison, 32 to 35 black women died for every 100,000 live babies, while deaths among Hispanic and Asian women (born in the US and elsewhere) were closer to rates for white women, at around 10 per 100,000. Older mothers were also more likely to die during and just after childbirth in all groups, eighteen white mothers ages 35 and up died for every 100,000 babies born, while 99 older black women died for every 100,000 births – almost one for every 1,000 babies.

In a country as rich as the United States and with exceptional health care resources, it seems unfathomable that women, particularly women of color, should have such a high rate of perinatal death. These numbers beg the question, is access to care the issue? We know that if women don’t have acces to quality health care, they are more likely to suffer complications. But the numbers seem to transcend economic status. So what else can be contributing to these large disparities?

Researchers found that heart problems,  general cardiovascular disease and hypertension were the most common causes of death in childbirth for both white and black women during the latter half of the study period. The researchers wondered if genetic disorders or other unknown health related issues could also account for the disparities. To date, they are unable to explain the disparities.

While similar disparities have been noted in other countries, the fact of the matter is that it is unacceptable for a segment of the population to be at increased risk for death by what should be a natural act-childbearing. Sure, childbearing has risks. But when ethnic and genetic differences have been taken into account, women should have the same opportunity-and risk-to have a healthy baby and the data to date is saying otherwise.

If there are differences in access to care, we should correct those differences. Complications such as post partum hemorrhage, which is a huge cause of perinatal death worldwide, should be appropriately managed.With the barrage of medical treatments and technologies available, most pregnancy complications, especially those that occur in the US should be quickly and thoroughly managed.

The researchers are not able to explain the disparities and are calling for and carrying out further research. As a Black mama, very thankful for her babies, I certainly hope that they are able to find the cause (s) of the disparities and narrow and/or eliminate the gap.


Race, Ethnicity and Nativity Differentials in Pregnancy-Related Mortality in the United States: 1993-2006.

Creanga, Anndrea A. MD, PhD; Berg, Cynthia J. MD, MPH; Syverson, Carla, RN, MPH; Seed, Kristi; Bruce, F. Carol RN, MPH; Callaghan, William M. MD, MPH

Obstetrics & Gynecology: August 2012 – Volume 120 – Issue 2, Part 1 – p 261–268
doi: 10.1097/AOG.0b013e31825cb87a

2 responses to “Mamas on Bedrest: Minority Mamas are More Likely to Die Giving Birth”

  1. Erika says:

    When I saw this report the other day I thought. “Oh no. How do I write about this and do the topic justice? How do I put into context what we know and what we still don’t know? How do we talk about health disparities while still acknowledging that when we control for all socioeconomic factors that black mothers, especially, are still at greater risk? And how do we fix it!” You’ve reminded me that all I need to do is wait for Darline to write an article about it and everything will be ok. 🙂

  2. Darline says:

    Hahahaahahaha!!! So funny! guess my mouth is larger than I realized.
    These topics intrigue me-both as a biologist and healthcare professional as well as a black mama. I just gotta know “why”? We may not know the answers in my lifetime, but I am so thrilled that the conversation is going on. And being the big mouth that I am, I just can’t resist adding my two cents. So glad it’s appreciated! Thanks for the comment.

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