Washington The number of women who die during or shortly after childbirth is higher in the United States than in any other developed country, especially among women of color. Identifying the cause of this racial disparity is “essentially one of the biggest public health challenges,” the chair of a Harvard task force examining the issue said Sunday.
“We see this as the tip of the iceberg for poor women’s health and poor black women’s health,” Dr. Henning Timmer, director of the Harvard Maternal Health Task Force, said in an interview with Face the Nation. “And there are several reasons, it seems [be]From poverty to discrimination to poor care for this group of women.”
Nearly 700 women die each year in the United States during labor or within the first month of childbirth, Temir said, noting that most of these deaths are “preventable.”
According to the year 2020 Report According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the US maternal mortality rate for non-Hispanic black women was 55.3 deaths per 100,000 live births — nearly 2.9 times the rate among non-Hispanic white women. Temir said the large disparity can be attributed to women’s overall health, poverty, poor postpartum care, and discrimination, among other factors.
The issue of maternal mortality has taken on even greater prominence in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, as many states implemented long-awaited bans on the procedure and cut off access to millions of women. Black women accounted for nearly 40% of all abortions performed in the United States, and Temir said he believed restricting access to abortion would have an as-yet-unknown effect.
“We know that miscarriages happen and that people who suffer from poverty and minorities often,” Temir said. “We know they have difficulties accessing abortion out of state, so we think it will affect their physical and mental health. How many deaths? Nobody knows. It’s very difficult.”
Medicaid covers about 40% of births, but in many states, coverage ends two months after the birth. The federal government encouraged more states to accept additional Medicaid funding and expand maternity care, and Tiemeier pointed to Texas and Mississippi where expanding coverage would help new mothers.
“They didn’t accept the ACA’s offer to expand health care to women in the first year, and I would actually say it should go even further in the first year after delivery,” he said.
Temir also stressed the importance of expanding paid leave for new mothers, saying the issue is often “insufficiently recognized”.
“So giving them paid leave is very important because having a child puts a strain on the system,” Temir said. “Imagine you have three kids, you have a fourth, and then you need to, you know, do the bare minimum, even though you’re not going to be able to make ends meet, you’re not going to find time to breastfeed.”