Home » U.S. Continues to Lead High-Income Nations in Maternal Mortality Rates

U.S. Continues to Lead High-Income Nations in Maternal Mortality Rates

by Richard A Reagan

Despite a decline in maternal deaths linked to COVID-19, the United States continues to report the highest maternal mortality rates among high-income countries

Recent data reveals alarming disparities that spotlight the urgency of addressing this national health crisis.

A study by The Commonwealth Fund, using data from 2022, illustrates that the U.S. has a maternal mortality rate of approximately 22 deaths per 100,000 live births—a stark contrast to countries like Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland, where the rates are significantly lower. 

Norway achieved zero maternal deaths in 2022, setting a commendable standard in maternal health care.

While the overall U.S. rate has decreased from its peak during the pandemic, the figures remain disproportionately high, especially among Black women, who face a maternal mortality rate of nearly 50 deaths per 100,000 live births—more than double the national average. 

This stark disparity points to systemic issues in healthcare accessibility and quality.

The report highlights a concerning trend: over 60% of maternal deaths in the U.S. occur postpartum, with the majority happening within a year after childbirth. 

The leading causes of these deaths in the weeks immediately following delivery include severe bleeding, high blood pressure, and infection, whereas heart muscle disease predominates in the later postpartum period. 

Alarmingly, nearly 80% of these deaths are deemed preventable by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Addressing the root causes, the U.S. suffers from a significant shortage of maternal health providers, including midwives and ob-gyns, compared to its peers. 

The U.S. features only 16 maternity care providers per 1,000 live births, starkly lower than Chile’s 92 providers per 1,000. 

Experts believe this shortage contributes directly to the nation’s high maternal mortality rates.

The lack of comprehensive postpartum support exacerbates these issues. Unlike other high-income nations, the U.S. does not guarantee paid maternity leave or mandated home visits after childbirth, both of which have proven benefits in maternal and newborn health. 

Countries like Switzerland offer up to 16 home visits covered by national insurance during the first 56 days postpartum, a stark contrast to the U.S. system.

Racial disparities and the quality of care also play critical roles. 

Black mothers often receive inferior care compared to their white counterparts, influenced by discrimination and clinician bias. These inequities are rooted deeply in the healthcare system, affecting outcomes and the experience of care.

The Commonwealth Fund’s findings underscore the urgent need for policy changes that prioritize maternity care coverage, increase the supply of healthcare providers, and ensure equitable access to quality maternal health services. 

Addressing these issues is not just a matter of health policy but a profound obligation to protect mothers and ensure that the joy of childbirth is not overshadowed by preventable tragedy.

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