High rates of obesity, high blood pressure and inadequate prenatal care cause death from childbirth more often for African-Americans in the United States than for whites and other ethnic groups. Worsening this trend are the increasing numbers of cesarean sections nationally. These procedures can result in deadly complications for women dangerously overweight or suffering from hypertension or other ailments.
Nationally, blacks have a four-times greater risk of pregnancy-related death than whites – a rate of 36.1 per 100,000 live births compared with 9.6 for whites and 8.5 for Hispanics, according to a 2008 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Maternal mortality rates have been rising in the United States since the mid-1990s. In 1997, the black maternal mortality rate was 21.5 per 100,000 live births compared with 8.0 for Hispanics and 5.2 for whites, according to the CDC. The rate for other races was 8.8.
By 2007, the black maternal mortality rate had jumped to 28.4, roughly three times the rates among whites and Hispanics at 10.5 and 8.9 respectively. Statistics were not broken out for Asians/Pacific Islanders and Native Americans.
Trends show that black maternal mortality rates are increasing in some parts of the country, and two recent studies highlighting the problem have renewed calls for increased focus on reducing the deaths.