Maternal Mortality Rates Decline in 2022, But Inequality Persists

Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new data showing a significant decrease in national maternal mortality rates (MMR) in 2022. The number of maternal deaths dropped from 1,205 to 817, and the rate decreased from 32.9 to 22.3 deaths per 100,000 live births compared to 2021. These statistics indicate a positive trend towards pre-pandemic levels of maternal deaths.

However, disparities in MMR persist among different racial and ethnic groups. While the maternal mortality rate for Black women decreased by 30% to 49.5 in 2022, they are still more than three times as likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth complications compared to the overall population. Rates also fell for White (from 26.6 to 19.0) and Hispanic (from 28.0 to 16.9) women, with minimal change for Asian women (16.8 in 2021 and 13.2 in 2022).

The data also revealed a reduction in maternal mortality rates across all age groups. Women over the age of 40 experienced the greatest decline, although their MMR remains six times higher than women under 25 (14.4 in 2022).

Approximately one-third of pregnancy-related deaths occur in the postpartum period. The Medicaid 12-month postpartum option plays a crucial role in extending coverage for pregnant women, as Medicaid finances over 40% of births, particularly for Black, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Hispanic women.

States have various tools at their disposal to address maternal mortality and morbidity before, during, and after pregnancy. Those that have not implemented the ACA’s Medicaid expansion face challenges in providing preventive care to uninsured women, potentially leading to untreated conditions during pregnancy.

Efforts to combat maternal mortality extend beyond coverage, as states must ensure that benefits like doula care in Medicaid are effectively utilized. Policy recommendations, such as those from the Task Force on Maternal Mental Health, are essential in eliminating disparities in maternal health outcomes.

In conclusion, while the decrease in maternal mortality rates is a positive development, the persistent disparities among racial and ethnic groups highlight the need for ongoing attention and action to improve maternal health outcomes for all individuals who become pregnant and give birth.