Maternal Mortality

June 12, 2020 • Volume 30, Issue 22
Can the U.S. reduce its high death rates?
By Rachel Layne


The United States spends more per capita on health care than any other country, but about 50,000 American mothers suffer serious injury or disease during childbirth each year and nearly 700 die during pregnancy or within six weeks of giving birth. That makes the United States the riskiest place among the 10 wealthiest nations to have a baby and the only industrialized country where the death rate for new moms is rising. Moreover, the death rate for black mothers is more than double that of their white counterparts. Experts blame gender and racial bias, a lack of insurance or access to care, inconsistent data and inadequate physician training. Some cite a higher rate of pre-existing conditions among black women that makes having a baby more dangerous for them. Health care providers and state agencies are working to cut the death rate, while Congress and some states are considering expanding access to subsidized insurance for moms, especially those who have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus crisis.

Kate Casaletto of Peabody, Mass. (Getty Images/The Boston Globe/Suzanne Kreiter)
Kate Casaletto of Peabody, Mass., will deliver her baby during the coronavirus pandemic. About 50,000 American mothers suffer serious injury or disease during or immediately after childbirth. (Getty Images/The Boston Globe/Suzanne Kreiter)
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