Between 1999 and 2019, the number of women in the United States who died within a year of pregnancy more than doubled.
There were approximately 1,210 maternal deaths in 2019, up from 505 in 1999, according to a study in JAMA. The report did not account for the years at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our findings provide important insights on maternal mortality rates leading up to the pandemic, and it’s likely that we’ll see a continued increase in the risk of maternal mortality across all populations if we analyze data from subsequent years,” the study's lead author, Dr. Allison Bryant, said in a statement. “Black individuals would likely still have the highest rate, but there may be a higher uptick in some of the other groups in the last few years.”
The study found that while Black mothers died at the highest rates in the 20-year period, the greatest increase in deaths over time were seen among Native American and Alaska Native women. Even in Northeastern states, Black women had the highest maternal mortality rates.
“Often, states in the South are called out as having the worst maternal mortality rates in the nation, whereas California and Massachusetts have the best. But that doesn’t tell the whole story,” Bryant continued. “It’s essential to look at the disparities between populations that exist even in the ‘best’ states.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the most common causes of death within one year after pregnancy include excessive bleeding, cardiac and coronary conditions, infections, blood clots, and high blood pressure, many of which are preventable and treatable with consistent medical care.
In light of this, Bryant said the report is "a call to action to all of us to understand the root causes – to understand that some of it is about healthcare and access to healthcare, but a lot of it is about structural racism and the policies and procedures and things that we have in place that may keep people from being healthy."