Mar 22, 2023 - News

NC's maternal mortality rate is still climbing since pandemic's start

Maternal death rate in the <span style="background: #757575; color: white; padding: 5px;">U.S.</span> and <span style="background: #FFA515; color: white; padding: 5px;">North Carolina</span>
Data: CDC and Muckrock analysis of CDC data; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Maternal mortality rates nationally have worsened as the pandemic has dragged on, and North Carolina is no exception.

Driving the news: In fact, according to newly released data, North Carolina mothers are dying at a higher rate than the U.S. average, with pregnancy-related deaths disproportionately impacting women of color.

Why it matters: COVID worsened maternal health for new mothers throughout the U.S., and that decline is still continuing, Muckrock and Columbia University's Brown Institute for Media Innovation found.

  • And the spike in deaths is especially concerning considering more than 80% of pregnancy-related deaths are preventable.

By the numbers: More than 50 North Carolina mothers died while pregnant or within 42 days of giving birth in 2021, at a rate of 44 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, according to Muckrock.

The big picture: The increase in deaths since the pandemic is likely in part driven by COVID-19 infections, along with pandemic delaying care non-COVID patients, Axios' Arielle Dreher has reported.

Between the lines: The newly released national data also reveals stark racial disparities in the maternal death rate, Axios' Erin Doherty writes.

  • In 2021, the maternal mortality rate for Black women was 69.9 deaths per 100,000 live births, compared to a rate of 26.6 per 100,000 for white women.
  • In North Carolina, where 22% of the population is Black, Black women made up for some 43% of pregnancy related deaths between 2020 and last year, Muckrock found in its analysis, which includes some preliminary 2022 data.

Zoom out: The U.S. has among the highest maternal mortality rates in the developed world, but declines in that rate have stalled globally in recent years, according to a report released last month by the World Health Organization.

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