Back in December this blog noted the steady increase in U.S. maternal mortality (pregnancy-related deaths) since dropping to its lowest point in 1986. Now the California Public Heath Department is reporting that the mortality rate in the state has almost doubled between 1999 and 2008 (8.0 to 14.0 deaths per 100,000 live births.
Maternal mortality is rare, but the rising rates are a warning sign of increasing health risk factors among women (obesity, hypertension, diabetes, etc.) and of problems with maternal health care.
The CDPH report found disparities in mortality related to race, income and education:
* The risk of maternal death was four times higher for African American women than for other groups in 2002-03 (46.1 deaths per 100,000 live births, compared to 12.8 for Hispanic women, 12.4 for White women, and 9.3 for Asian women).
* Low-income women in the state died at a higher rate than others. Fifty-seven percent of maternal deaths involved Medi-Cal recipients, though this group constituted only 45 percent of all women giving birth.
* Although women with less than a high school diploma constituted 11 percent of women who gave birth in the state, 31 percent of all maternal deaths occurred within this group.