U.S. Maternal Deaths More Than Doubled Over Two Decades

CARDIFF, UNITED KINGDOM - SEPTEMBER 27: A pregnant woman holds her belly on September 27, 2016 in Cardiff, United Kingdom. (Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)

Maternal deaths across the United States more than doubled over the course of two decades, and the tragedy unfolded unequally, reported The Associated Press on Monday, citing a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Black mothers died at the nation’s highest rates, while the largest increases in deaths were found in American Indian and Native Alaskan mothers. And some states — and racial or ethnic groups within them — fared worse than others, the report noted.

Researchers of the study looked at maternal deaths between 1999 and 2019 — but not the pandemic spike — for every state and five racial and ethnic groups.

“It’s a call to action to all of us to understand the root causes — to understand that some of it is about health care and access to health care, but a lot of it is about structural racism and the policies and procedures and things that we have in place that may keep people from being healthy,” Allison Bryant, one of the study’s authors and a senior medical director for health equity at Mass General Brigham, was quoted as saying.

Among wealthy nations, the United States has the highest rate of maternal mortality, which is defined as a death during pregnancy or up to a year afterward. Common causes include excessive bleeding, infection, heart disease, suicide and drug overdose, according to the report.