Mar 24, 2023 - News

Maternal mortality trends are tough to pin down in Utah

U.S. maternal mortality rates, by race/ethnicity
Data: CDC. Chart: Nicki Camberg/Axios

The maternal mortality rate in the U.S. spiked in 2021, with deaths disproportionately impacting Black women.

Why it matters: The U.S. still has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the developed world, and previous research has largely attributed that to an outsized prevalence among Black mothers, Axios' Tina Reed reports.

Driving the news: More than 1,200 women died during pregnancy or shortly after giving birth in 2021, a 40% increase from 2020, according to data released last week by the National Center for Health Statistics.

  • In 2020, 861 women died during pregnancy or quickly thereafter, compared to 754 women in 2019.

Context: Maternal mortality rates climbed during the pandemic, likely due to COVID-19 itself and the pandemic's impact on delaying care for other conditions.

Zoom in: Utah's pregnancy-related mortality rate between 2018 and 2020 was 21.5 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, according to the latest state health department data, released last week.

  • More than 15 Utah mothers died in 2020 from pregnancy-related causes during or shortly after pregnancy.

Catch up quick: From 2007 to 2014, Utah's maternal death rate was consistently below the nation's — between 10 and 17 deaths per 100,000 births.

  • Utah's rate spiked in 2015 to 25.6 and hovered around that level for most of the years since; meanwhile, national rates sat around 17 or 18 per 100,000.

Yes, but: Utah's population is relatively small, and the numbers can fluctuate significantly from year to year, said Nickee Andjelic, manager of the state health department's maternal and infant health program.

  • That can make it hard to extrapolate larger trends in statewide data.
Data and image via the Utah Public Health Indicator-Based Information System

Between the lines: There are stark disparities in the maternal death rate, according to the national data.

  • In 2021, the maternal mortality rate for Black women U.S.-wide was 69.9 deaths per 100,000 live births, compared to a rate of 26.6 per 100,000 for white women.
  • A report breaking down maternal mortality by demographics at the state level is expected later this year, according to Andjelic.
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