Maternal mortality in the U.S. has worsened over the past three decades due in large part to mounting disparities in access to quality perinatal care among women of color, according to a report the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights issued Wednesday.
The maternal mortality rate rose from 6.6 deaths for every 100,000 live births in 1987 to 20.1 deaths by 2019, for a total of 754 that year, according to the report. The U.S. maternal death rate ranks among the highest of any high-income nation.
Pregnancy-related deaths among Black women have been the largest driver for the consistently high mortality rate for at least the past 20 years. Black women in the U.S. are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women and had the fastest escalation in deaths between 2007 and 2014. If the mortality data excluded Black and Native American women, the U.S. rate would be comparable to that of other wealthy nations.
"These dramatic disparities in rates of survivorship point to the stark reality that in our nation the experience of pregnant individuals is not equal," Civil Rights Commissioner Debo Adegbile said during a news conference Wednesday.
Maternal death rates among Black women in some areas of the country are up to 12 times higher than white women, and are comparable to the maternal mortality rates found in some developing countries, the report says.