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New Study: US Maternal Mortality Remains Highest Among Wealthy Nations

Despite a post-covid decline, 2022 saw around 22 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births in America. Norway in contrast saw 0 maternal deaths. See what experts say the US can do.
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By Wyndi Kappes, Associate Editor
Published June 6, 2024
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A new study published by The Commonwealth Fund is calling attention once again to America’s unacceptably high maternal mortality rate.

Despite declines in the overall rate post-covid the US maternal deaths in 2022 continued to hover around 22 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births. This number is the highest among high-income countries around the world and comes in stark contrast to other nations like Norway which reported 0 maternal deaths during the same period.

What’s more, the study shows that not all Americans are being treated equally. The maternal mortality rate for Black women sits at nearly 50 deaths per 100,000 live births. Prior research points to unequal care with Black people receiving worse-quality care than white people on 52 percent of measures, from access to needed care to care outcomes and patients’ perceptions of care. This lack of care isn’t just happening in the delivery room, though. The study points out that nearly 2 out of 3 maternal deaths in the US occur during the postpartum period, up to 42 days following birth.

The good news is that the study shows that over 80 percent of US maternal deaths are preventable. Big differences in prenatal, labor and delivery and postpartum support is a common theme when pointing out the divide between countries like the US and Norway. For instance, compared to women in high-income countries, US women are the least likely to have postpartum supports such as home visits and guaranteed paid leave.

The study also points out that the US and Canada have the lowest supply of midwives and ob-gyns and in these countries ob-gyns outnumber midwives. This is critical as midwives can help with a wider range of services beyond your normal ob-gyn including extended postpartum care. The research sites a recent study found that a midwife workforce, integrated into health care delivery, could provide 80 percent of essential maternal care around the world and potentially avert 41 percent of maternal deaths, 39 percent of neonatal deaths, and 26 percent of stillbirths.

New initiatives to address these issues are gaining traction and all important funding though. The Black Maternal Health Caucus (BMHC), 4Kira4Moms and several other mom advocacy groups recently helped push through $100 Million in funding for maternal health. From better midwife education and funding to postpartum care programs and the expansion of hospitals into maternity care deserts, there is progress being made and work being done. You can learn more about how you can support legislation dedicated to helping moms at MarchofDimes.org.

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