The Racial Health Disparity in Maternal Mortality

by Anerudh Praveen
3 mins read

Maternal mortality, defined as the death of a woman during pregnancy, childbirth, or within 42 days of delivery, is a significant public health issue in the United States. Despite medical advancements, maternal mortality rates in the U.S. are among the highest in developed countries. Moreover, black and Indigenous women are disproportionately affected by this issue, and the gap between these communities and white women continues to widen.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women. In 2018, the maternal mortality rate for black women was 37.1 deaths per 100,000 live births, compared to 14.7 deaths per 100,000 live births for white women. The disparity is even more significant for Indigenous women. The CDC reports that Indigenous women are 2.3 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women.

Several factors contribute to this racial health disparity. Structural racism, which includes historical and current policies that create and maintain racial inequalities, is a significant factor. For example, black women are more likely to live in impoverished communities with limited access to quality healthcare, healthy food, and safe housing. Moreover, they are more likely to experience racism and discrimination in healthcare settings, which can lead to mistrust and reluctance to seek care.

Other factors include underlying health conditions, such as hypertension, obesity, and diabetes, which increase the risk of pregnancy complications. Socioeconomic status, education, and access to healthcare also play a role.

The U.S. government has taken steps to address this issue. In 2018, Congress passed the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act, which provides funding to states to establish maternal mortality review committees. These committees investigate maternal deaths to identify gaps in care and develop strategies to prevent future deaths. Additionally, the CDC has launched the Hear Her campaign, which raises awareness about maternal mortality and encourages women to seek care when they experience warning signs.

In conclusion, the racial health disparity in maternal mortality is a complex issue that requires comprehensive solutions. Addressing structural racism and improving access to healthcare and resources can help reduce the disparity and ensure that all women have safe and healthy pregnancies and births. 


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Pregnancy Mortality Surveillance System.

National Partnership for Women & Families. (2021). Maternal Health: Women of Color.

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