Recent Study Shows Minorities Suffer Most
The latest numbers are in, and they are not encouraging. The number of women in the United States who died because of pregnancy or maternal-related causes rose significantly in 2021. According to a report released by the CDC earlier this year, maternal death rate in the U.S. for 2021 was over 60% higher than 2019 and about 40% higher than the previous year.
Maternal mortality has been a concern for many years, and U.S. statistics have consistently shown a clear disparity between outcomes for White women and minorities, particularly Black women. The latest numbers underscore that disparity, reflecting a maternal death rate for Black women of 2.6 times that for White women.
As we have discussed in earlier articles, the roots of this disparity in healthcare run deep. An earlier study by the CDC examined racial and ethnic disparities in pregnancy-related deaths in the 10 years ending in 2016. Among other factors, they found chronic conditions that could lead to negative outcomes were more widely found in minority women. And, even when the rate of certain complications was consistent between White and Black women, Black women suffered a much higher fatality rate.
Sadly, medical bias also plays a role in these disparate outcomes, impacting women in general, but specifically playing a role in the overall quality of healthcare given to Black women and their children. Whether that bias is unconscious (implicit) or actually expressed thoughts or feelings (explicit), the negative effect on medical outcomes is the same.
There is growing awareness of the racial disparities in maternal and baby health outcomes, and the U.S. Congress has taken steps in the past few years to address core support and care needs through legislation. But, the fact remains that the U.S. is significantly lagging other countries when it comes to lowering maternal mortality. What can you do? As a woman, especially a minority woman, awareness that medical bias and disparities exist is critical in evaluating your own provider and care team. Do not accept the first answer if you are feeling unheard or believe the provider is not accurately diagnosing your or your child’s health symptoms. Trust your own instincts and seek a second, or even third opinion.