The Lamen

1 in 5 mothers mistreated during pregnancy care, C.D.C reports

A bar graph for the breast cancer rates among women of different ethnicities.

The U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rates among developed countries. A new government study highlights that disparities in pregnancy care might be a factor.

Photo: Unsplash

Published on Aug 27, 2023

1 in 5 mothers experienced mistreatment by healthcare providers during maternal care — reporting verbal abuse, invasion of physical privacy, and threats to withhold treatment, according to a new U.S. government survey.

Key details: The U.S. is considered an outlier in maternal mortality rates. The average maternal mortality rate in high-income countries in 2020 was 12 deaths per 100,000 live births. However, the number was nearly 24 deaths in the U.S.

  • With an estimated 80 percent of these deaths being preventable, the CDC calls for respectful maternity care as part of “actions at many levels to reduce pregnancy-related deaths.”

Maternal death rates in the U.S. nearly doubled between 2018 and 2021, growing from 17.4 to 32.9 deaths per 100,000 live births, according to a CDC report.

  • The maternal mortality rates for non-Hispanic Black women were 2.6 times greater at 69.9 deaths per 10,000 live births in 2021.
  • A report published earlier this year found American Indian, Alaska Native, and Black individuals to be at an increased risk of maternal mortality.

According to the new survey, of the 2,400 women surveyed, Black, multiracial, and Hispanic women reported higher rates of discrimination.

  • About 30 percent of Black, Hispanic, and Multiracial reported discrimination during maternity care — age, weight, income, and ethnicity being the most commonly reported reasons for discrimination.
  • Women with no insurance or public insurance at the time of delivery experienced more mistreatment than those with private insurance.
  • “We know that racism and discrimination can lead to delays in treatment and sometimes tragic and preventable deaths,” said CDC Division of Reproductive Health Director Wanda Barfield.
  • 45 percent of respondents said they held back from sharing questions or concerns with their provider — citing reasons like not wanting to be embarrassed or being perceived as difficult by their healthcare provider.

The reasons for increased maternal mortality include getting pregnant at older ages, the rise in chronic health conditions like obesity, and inequities in healthcare.

  • The maternal mortality rate in the U.S. for women under 25 was 20.4 deaths per 100,000 live births. This number grew to 138.5 for women ages 40 and older.
  • The leading causes of maternal mortality include heart disease, stroke, hypertension, and suicide.

Takeaway: The CDC recommends health care systems hire a diverse workforce and train all healthcare staff to recognize unconscious bias and stigma.