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Black Women at 53% Higher Risk of Death in Childbirth Than White Women, Study Finds

Analysis  |  By Christopher Cheney  
   October 24, 2022

Researchers examined data from 9.5 million deliveries in hospitals between 2007 and 2018.

Compared to White women, Black women had a 53% increased risk of dying in the hospital during childbirth, according to new research set to be presented at the ANESTHESIOLOGY 2022 conference.

Earlier research has found racial healthcare disparities in maternal mortality. For example, a 2019 study by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that pregnancy-related deaths per 100,000 live births for Black, American Indian, and Alaska Native women older than 30 were four to five times as high as they were for White women.

The new research is based on data collected from 9.5 million deliveries in hospitals between 2007 and 2018. The data was drawn from inpatient databases in California, Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, New York, and Washington.

The finding that Black mothers had a 53% increased risk of dying in hospitals compared to White women was regardless of income level, type of insurance, or other social determinants of health. The research includes another key finding. Of the 49,472 mothers who died in the hospital or experienced harm to the heart, eyes, kidney, or other organ, there were 0.8% of all Black women, 0.5% of all Hispanic women, and 0.4% of all White women.

"This study is the most up-to-date and extensive study—factoring in various states, insurance types, hospital types, and income levels—to determine that the much higher maternal mortality rate among Black women often cannot be attributed to differences in health, income or access to care alone," Robert White, MD, MS, lead author of the study and assistant professor of anesthesiology at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York, said in a prepared statement.

White called for interventions to address the healthcare disparity. "Clearly there's a need for legislation to improve access to healthcare throughout pregnancy and improve funding among safety-net hospitals. But it's also essential that hospitals train their employees to provide culturally appropriate care, offer translation services, and conduct implicit bias association testing."

Anesthesiologists are well-positioned to impact maternal mortality, White said. "Physician anesthesiologists are leaders in quality, safety, and perioperative medicine and are working very hard to help decrease racial differences through science and implementation of protocols that treat everyone the same—with a focus on those who are worse off to achieve health equity. We not only provide pain management during childbirth, but our training in critical and emergency care help us to proactively handle complications, prevent death, and ensure the health and safety of the mother and baby."

Related: 2 Ways 'Team Birth Project' Works to Decrease Maternal Mortaliity

Christopher Cheney is the senior clinical care​ editor at HealthLeaders.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

New research set to be presented at the ANESTHESIOLOGY 2022 conference adds to evidence that Black women are more likely experience maternal mortality than White women.

In the new research, of the 49,472 mothers who died in the hospital or experienced harm to the heart, eyes, kidney, or other organ, there were 0.8% of all Black women, 0.5% of all Hispanic women, and 0.4% of all White women.


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