The Pulse

NC maternal death rate exceeds national rate

By: - March 17, 2023 12:00 pm

North Carolina’s maternal mortality rate is rising much faster than the national rate reported by the CDC on Thursday. 

The US maternal mortality rate in 2021 was 32.9 deaths per 100,000 live births, according to the CDC, up from 23.8 per 100,000 in 2020, and 20.1 per 100,000 in 2019.

North Carolina’s maternal mortality rate doubled over those years, to 44 deaths per 100,000 births in 2021, up from 22 deaths per 100,000 in 2019, Policy Watch reported this week using  CDC data obtained by the investigative news organization MuckRock. 

Nationally,  Black women are 2.6 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. The maternal death rate for Black women was 69.9 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2021, while for white women it was 26.6 deaths per 100,000 births. The CDC counted maternal deaths of women while they were pregnant or within 42 days of giving birth. The death rate increased for women of all races, the CDC reported. 

“Provisional data released in late 2022 in a U.S. Government Accountability Office report indicated that maternal death rates in 2021 had spiked – in large part due to COVID-19,” Dr. Abbasi Hoskins, president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said in a prepared statement Thursday.

“Still, confirmation of a roughly 40% increase in preventable deaths compared to a year prior is stunning news,” the statement said. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic had a dramatic and tragic effect on maternal death rates, but we cannot let that fact obscure that there was – and still is- already a maternal mortality crisis to compound.”

The maternal death rate is higher in the United States than it is in any other wealthy country, according to the Commonwealth Fund reported

A Policy Watch analysis of MuckRock data found that in 2020 and 2021 about 56% of the 119 Black women in North Carolina who died within a year of giving birth died from pregnancy-related causes.

For 163 white women in the state who died within a year of giving birth in those years, about a third died from pregnancy-related causes.

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Lynn Bonner
Lynn Bonner

Investigative Reporter Lynn Bonner covers the state legislature and politics, as well as elections, the state budget, public and mental health, safety net programs and issues of racial equality.