Report: Maternal Deaths 4-5 Times More Common Among Black Mothers

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According to data in a recent report, Black mothers are more likely to die from issues related to pregnancy than white, Hispanic, and Asian women.

Black mothers are significantly more likely to die from “pregnancy-related causes” than white, Hispanic, and Asian women, according to a recent report by Newsday. Citing an analysis of data provided by the New York State Department of Health, the report states specifically that Black mothers are “four to five” more times likely to die of such causes, with experts attributing the disparity to “conscious and unconscious bias among health care providers.”

Between 2010 and 2019, according to data cited by the report, there were 473 deaths from pregnancy-related causes in New York, with sixty in Long Island. The death rate per 100,000 live births was 12.6 for non-Hispanic white mothers, 11.7 for Hispanic mothers, 10.1 for non-Hispanic Asian/Pacific Islander mothers, and 53.3 for non-Hispanic Black mothers.

A report published by the state DOH last month argues that “most of those deaths were preventable,” according to Newsday. Experts told Newsday that the reasons for the disparity “include discrimination, health care providers ignoring patients’ concerns, lack of follow-up care, and inadequate education of pregnant women of potential complications.”

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The report also states that these deaths could have been prevented, but some underlying health conditions like diabetes and obesity along with lower incomes could be playing a role in these higher death rates among Black women.

Other reasons include underlying health conditions like obesity and diabetes, as well as lower incomes. As one expert noted, however, data suggests that even college-educated Black patients suffer worse outcomes than white patients with a high school education or less, suggesting that bias among healthcare providers is another important factor. The DOH report made the same assertion, noting that discrimination was a likely or certain cause in 46% of deaths. 

The report specifically cited forms of discrimination like doctors dismissing patients’ concerns because of their “race, gender, or weight,” providers treating women of color with disrespect, housing inequality, “and slower ambulance response in disadvantaged communities.” Then there’s the increased likelihood that doctors dismiss patients’ experiences of pain if they are women of color. “Multiple studies have shown that Black patients are less likely to receive pain medication than whites or receive lower doses,” Newsday reports, “and that physicians are more likely to underestimate the pain of Black patients.” One 2016 study cited by Newsday found that “white medical students surveyed said at least one false belief about Black people’s biology was possibly, probably or definitely true,” providing a lower quality of care as a result.

More information on the data showing that Black mothers are more likely to of pregnancy-related causes is available via Newsday.

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