HAP Blog

Maternal Mortality, Disparities Worsen during 2020

March 04, 2022

Maternal mortality rates increased significantly during the first year of the pandemic, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The report, released last week from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, highlighted concerning trends in outcomes and the need to address racial disparities that have worsened during the pandemic.

The new CDC report did not outline the reasons for the increases in maternal mortality rates, but officials have noted the impact of COVID-19 and the concerning disparities in maternal outcomes that predated the virus.

“While the COVID-19 pandemic is believed to play a part in this, this data shows that the United States is moving in the wrong direction when it comes to maternal deaths,” Acting Secretary of Human Services Meg Snead said during an event this week. She added that pregnancy-related deaths grew more than 21 percent in Pennsylvania from 2013 and 2018.

Among the key figures in the report:

  • The increase:  The maternal mortality rate for 2020 was 23.8 deaths per 100,000 live births compared to 20.1 in 2019 
  • Disparities:  The maternal mortality rate for non-Hispanic Black women was 55.3 deaths per 100,000 live births, or 2.9 times the rate for non-Hispanic White women. The increases from 2019 to 2020 for non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic women were statistically significant, the report said
  • Age-related increases:  The maternal mortality rate for women 40 and older (107 per 100,000) was 7.8 times higher than the rate for women under age 25

Last year, the Wolf administration announced plans to extend the postpartum coverage period for mothers eligible for Medicaid because of their pregnancy from 60 days to one year.

The expansion would allow thousands of birthing parents to access necessary physical and behavioral health care to keep themselves and their families healthy. Expanding postpartum coverage provides continuity and access to health care through a critical period, state officials noted.

HAP and Pennsylvania’s hospital community join the effort to address disparities in health care and to improve maternal outcomes. This week, Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center highlighted its multidisciplinary efforts to improve services for perinatal depression and enhance provider and staff education. The system is one of 16 hospitals participating in the enhanced screening process from the Pennsylvania’s Perinatal Quality Collaborative.

The report from the CDC is available online.


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