A Shocking Rise in Maternal Mortality Rates in the United States

According to a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2021, 1,205 women died of maternal causes in the United States compared with 861 in 2020 and 754 in 2019. The maternal mortality rate for 2021 was 32.9 deaths per 100,000 live births, compared with a rate of 23.8 in 2020 and 20.1 in 2019. The maternal mortality rate in the United States is the highest among major industrialized nations.

A maternal death is defined by the World Health Organization as “the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the duration and the site of the pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management, but not from accidental or incidental causes.”

Mortality rates increased with maternal age. Rates in 2021 were 20.4 deaths per 100,000 live births for women under age 25, 31.3 for those aged 25–39, and 138.5 for those aged 40 and over. The rate for women aged 40 and over was 6.8 times higher than the rate for women under age 25. The increases in the rates between 2020 and 2021 for each of these age groups were statistically significant.

In 2021, the maternal mortality rate for Black women was 69.9 deaths per 100,000 live births, 2.6 times the rate for non-Hispanic White women. But the increase in maternal mortality rates was significant across all racial and ethnic groups. For Black women over the age of 40, the maternal death rate was 300.8 per 100,000 live births.

Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, executive director of MomsRising, a grassroots organization of more than a million people focusing on issues of importance to women, stated that “this is an emergency. Too many moms are losing their lives during pregnancy and childbirth in this country. It is appalling that our already-high maternal mortality rate is getting worse, as are the disparities. Improving women’s health and addressing our maternal health crisis should be our highest priority.”

Filed Under: Research/Study

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