US ranks behind Russia in maternal mortality rate, black women fare the worst, show latest estimates
The maternal mortality rate was 17.4 per 100,000 live births in 2018, indicating that the US would rank 55th among countries listed on WHO's most-recent ranking
The US saw 17.4 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 2018 — which means 658 women died that year, according to a report published in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) National Vital Statistics Reports.
The estimate indicates that the US would rank 55th among countries listed on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) most-recent maternal mortality ranking. This means that the country ranks behind Russia, with 17 deaths per 100,000 live births and just ahead of Ukraine with 19 deaths per 100,000 births.
What is more, the US ranking lags behind other similarly wealthy countries. “If you limit the comparison to those similarly wealthy countries,” such as Germany, “the US would rank 10th — out of 10 countries,” Eugene Declercq, a professor of community health sciences at Boston University School of Public Health, told Vox.
"It gives us more evidence and more confidence that these maternal mortality rates that we are seeing in the United States — that are still higher than those of our peer countries— truly represent a critical public health issue and serious concern for the health of women," Dr Janine Clayton, director of the Office of Research on Women's Health at the National Institutes of Health in Washington, told CNN.
Maternal death was defined as the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of being pregnant, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or the management of the pregnancy, according to the WHO. These maternal deaths in the new report do not include women who died by suicide or homicide.
To come up with the 2018's report, the CDC used a different method to prevent previous errors. This time, they collected and analyzed data on maternal deaths from death certificates. According to the analysis, the maternal mortality rate among older women was higher: those aged 40 and above had a death rate of 81.9 per 100,000 births while women under 25 had a mortality rate of 10.6 — almost eight times higher.
Among races, the mortality rate among black women was twice that of white women: 37.1 deaths per 100,000 live births compared to 14.7. And Hispanic women had the lowest rate of maternal mortality, 11.8 deaths per 100,000 live births. 36.3.
"That's the takeaway," Bob Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch at the National Center for Health Statistics, told NBC news. "I do not think it is as important to focus on the exact numbers. What is important is that black women have a much higher maternal mortality rate than white women."
Nevertheless, experts believe that the new data is an important step to address this problem. In the future, Dr. Maureen Phipps, chief executive of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, hopes more data will shape changes in policies that can reduce preventable deaths and eliminate the racial disparity in maternal mortality.
"Data from the NCHS reflects the scale of the public health challenge we face," Phipps said in a statement. She adds, "Access to reliable, consistent data year after year is critical to establishing benchmarks, setting goals, and measuring progress towards improving outcomes."