Racial Disparities in Maternal Mortality

Did you know that there are racial disparities in maternal mortality in the U.S.? It’s not just a hunch or an opinion. Data shows that many women get subpar maternal care because of their race. Mothers are losing their lives because of the color of their skin. Worst of all, they’re dying because of preventable pregnancy complications. 

Below, we’ll share some shocking statistics on racial disparities in maternal health. But we also want to remind you that there are real women and families behind these numbers.

One way to help end discrimination is to hold negligent physicians accountable. If you suspect racial bias was to blame for the inferior health care you received, contact Hampton & King.

Black couple excited about arrival of baby.

Racial Disparities in Maternal Health

Right now, the U.S. is facing an alarming maternal health crisis. More women are dying from childbirth now than they were two decades ago. 

That seems ridiculous, doesn’t it? Don’t we have better healthcare than we did in the past? Sure, but that doesn’t mean everyone has access to it. 

In fact, minorities in the U.S., and especially black women, have the least access to adequate maternal care. Also, doctors sometimes show racial bias. They refuse to listen to women when they come to them for help. They ignore a woman’s symptoms or delay their treatment because of their race. 

Racial Disparities in Maternal Mortality

The maternal mortality rate in the U.S. is shocking. But even more shocking is the fact that its already sky-high rate is even higher for certain races. 

Check out these statistics:

  • Every year, about 700 women die from pregnancy complications. 
  • Black and Indigenous women are 2-3 times more likely than white women to die from complications of pregnancy and birth.
  • Maternal mortality worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic. 1,205 people died of maternal causes in the U.S. in 2021 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
  • The U.S. had the worst maternal death rate of any high-resource country in 2021 (32.9 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births). It continues to perform poorly among other high-income nations. 
  • Most maternal deaths are preventable. 80% of these deaths can be prevented

Black Maternal Mortality

When it comes to maternal mortality, black families suffer the most. Black women are 3 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women. In 2021, 69.9 black women died per 100,000 births. 

The Black maternal mortality rate for women who have at least a college education is 5.2 times higher than the rate for White women with the same education. It is 1.6 times higher than the rate for White women who don’t have a High School diploma. (CDC)

Factors that Fuel the Racial Gap

Why are racial disparities in maternal mortality so prominent in the U.S.? We can’t point fingers at biology. Black women aren’t inherently “unhealthy”. They’re not at higher risk of maternal mortality because of how their bodies are made. Here’s what the real problem is:

Social Factors

Social factors fuel racial disparities in maternal health. Low-income communities and racial minorities tend to have limited access to competent, compassionate care. They also are less likely to have health insurance. 

With sub-par care or no health care at all, outcomes for affected communities are much worse. In particular, Black, American Indian, and Alaska Native (AIAN) women suffer the most. They have higher rates of pregnancy-related death than White women.

But studies have shown that racial disparities in maternal mortality exist among people with higher education and income, too. This means that something else is driving disparities: racial discrimination.  

Racial Bias in Healthcare

When a black newborn is under the care of a black doctor, the baby is 50% less likely to die than when cared for by a white doctor. That’s just one of the shocking findings of a study highlighting racial disparities in maternal health care. 

Black women (and other races) can find themselves in a similar situation. Women have reported being ignored and even threatened by their doctors in the U.S. Lawsuits are popping up all over the nation, claiming black women are losing their lives because of racial bias. 
Here’s one example. In 2016, Kira Johnson died from massive internal bleeding after a C-section. Her husband, Charles Johnson filed a lawsuit in 2022 against Cedars-Sinai Hospital over her death. The lawsuit alleges that Johnson received inferior care due to her skin color.

Black mother cradles her pregnant belly.

Taking Legal Action Against Racial Bias in Maternal Health

If you were injured because of racial bias in healthcare, we invite you to contact our lawyers. Racial bias and inadequate care are unacceptable. It also may constitute medical malpractice, giving you the right to sue.  

Why should you sue? You may be able to recover damages to help you pay your medical expenses. In addition, suing negligent doctors helps prevent them from harming future patients.