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Urgent Alert: Alarming Rise in U.S. Maternal Mortality Rates Revealed by Recent Study

Updated: Apr 1









A recent study conducted by Northwestern Medicine has uncovered a troubling trend in the United States: the maternal mortality rate is skyrocketing at an alarming pace despite widespread assumptions attributing this rise to older pregnancies. Contrary to popular belief, the study revealed that maternal mortality rates have surged across all age groups, with the most significant increases observed among women aged 25 to 34 (Northwestern University, 2024). Led by Dr. Sadiya Khan, the study's corresponding author and Magerstadt Professor of Cardiovascular Epidemiology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, the research aimed to explore the drivers behind this concerning trend (Northwestern University, 2024).


Between 2014 and 2021, while the average maternal age increased from 28.3 to 29.4 years old, maternal mortality rates nearly doubled from 16.5 to 31.8 deaths per 100,000 live births (Northwestern University, 2024). This substantial escalation in mortality rates, particularly notable with a rise from 18.9 to 31.8 deaths per 100,000 live births between 2019 and 2021, underscores the urgency of addressing this public health crisis (Northwestern University, 2024). Published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the study underscores the need for immediate action to identify and address the underlying causes driving this disturbing trend (Northwestern University, 2024).


The research also debunked the prevailing hypothesis that older maternal age alone is responsible for the surge in maternal mortality rates (Northwestern University, 2024). While older maternal age remains a significant risk factor, it does not fully account for the drastic increase in deaths observed across all age groups (Northwestern University, 2024). Consequently, there is a pressing need to delve deeper into the root causes of maternal mortality and implement targeted interventions to mitigate its impact (Northwestern University, 2024).


Furthermore, the study shed light on the role of cardiovascular diseases, such as hypertensive disorders, heart failure, and stroke, as significant contributors to poor maternal health outcomes (Northwestern University, 2024). Although the study did not explore racial disparities in maternal mortality, it emphasized the importance of future research to investigate this critical aspect comprehensively (Northwestern University, 2024).


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released the United States' maternal mortality statistics for 2020, revealing a concerning trend. The overall maternal mortality rate, defined as the number of deaths related to pregnancy or its management, increased from 2019 to 2020. This uptick is alarming, particularly as it highlights worsening maternal health outcomes, which disproportionately affect Black women (Herman, 2022).


Pregnancy-related deaths can happen within a year after childbirth (Herman, 2022). Despite being trustworthy, the CDC's estimates of maternal mortality likely underestimate the actual number of pregnancy-related deaths throughout the United States (Herman, 2022).


Shockingly, Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes compared to white women. Dr. Jamila Taylor, a prominent figure in maternal health policy at The Century Foundation, addressed the significance of these statistics for Black women and birthing individuals (Herman, 2022). As the healthcare team at TCF delves deeper into these statistics, urgent action is needed to reverse this concerning trend and improve maternal health outcomes for all (Herman, 2022).


Black women face a staggering three times higher risk of maternal mortality compared to white women, highlighting stark racial disparities in maternal health outcomes (Herman, 2022). This alarming statistic underscores the impact of systemic racism and discrimination, placing Black women and birthing individuals at unacceptable and largely preventable risk during childbirth and throughout pregnancy (Herman, 2022).


Moreover, Hispanic women experienced the most significant increase in maternal mortality rates among all racial and ethnic groups, soaring by a shocking 44% in just one year (Herman, 2022). These disparities demand urgent attention and action to address the root causes and improve maternal health outcomes for all women.



References


Herman, J. (2022, April 26). The worsening U.S. maternal health crisis in three graphs. The Century Foundation. https://tcf.org/content/commentary/worsening-u-s-maternal-health-crisis-three-graphs/


Northwestern University. (2024, March 20). Study reports alarming increase in U.S. maternal mortality rates. News-Medical. https://www.news-medical.net/news/20240320/Study-reports-alarming-increase-in-US-maternal-mortality-rates.aspx




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