Not only are black women three times more likely than white women to suffer a pregnancy-associated death, the cause and manner of their deaths also varies widely.
During a presentation to the Joint Commission on Health Care on Monday, Melanie Rouse, maternal mortality projects coordinator with the Virginia Department of Health, expounded on the various disparities within maternal mortality based on race.
Pregnancy-associated deaths are a wide category that include deaths that occur when a woman is pregnant or within a year of termination of a pregnancy, regardless of the cause of death or outcome of the pregnancy, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The category includes deaths from medical conditions as well as from car crashes, drug overdoses and homicides.
From 2009 to 2013, the most recent year data was available, 66 percent of pregnancy-related deaths for black women were due to natural causes, compared to 45 percent for white women.
The leading causes of death for white women were accidental overdoses, motor vehicle accidents, cancer, infection and suicide. For black women, the leading causes were cardiac disorder, homicide, exacerbation of a chronic illness, pulmonary embolism and motor vehicle accidents.
The racial disparities, Rouse explained, “have been found to extend beyond all socioeconomic and educational backgrounds.”
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