From The National Women's Health Information Center
Pregnancy-related death. Each day in the U.S., between two and three women die of pregnancy-related causes. A pregnancy-related death is one that occurs during pregnancy or within one year after the end of pregnancy and is caused by pregnancy-related complications. The risk of death due to pregnancy varies greatly in different groups. African-American women are almost four times as likely as white women to die of pregnancy-related complications. For African-American women, the risk of pregnancy-related death goes up greatly with age.
African American women are more likely to die from ectopic pregnancies, when the fetus develops outside of the uterus (womb), and preeclampsia, which is a combination of high blood pressure, fluid retention, and protein loss in the urine. African American women are also more likely to leak amniotic fluids during pregnancy, which can lead to infection.
We do not know for sure why African American women have such high rates of pregnancy-related death. One study from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggests that limited access to health care may be one reason, noting that pregnant African American women were more than twice as likely as white women to get late or no prenatal care. Most of the women in the study said they wanted earlier prenatal care, but they could not get it because of a lack of money or insurance or not being able to get an appointment.
- In 2005, African-American women of all ages had a maternal mortality rate of 31.7 per 100,000 live births, which was more than three times higher than that of White women (9.1 per 100,00 live births). While the maternal mortality rate of African-American women has decreased significantly over the last four decades, it has been on the rise since 2000. The disparity between these women and white women remains striking. For example, in 1960, African-American women of all ages had a maternal mortality rate of 92.0, compared with 22.4 for White women. Furthermore, African-American women aged 35 years and over had a maternal mortality rate of 299.5 that same year, in contrast to 73.9 for White women. For 2005, those rates were 112.8 and 28.9 respectively.
- Hispanic women of all ages had a maternal mortality rate of 8.2 per 100,000 live births in 2005, which was higher than that of White women, but more than 50 percent lower than that of African-American women. (Note: Data for Hispanic women does not include data from states lacking a Hispanic-origin item on their death and birth certificates. Consequently, the rates could be higher than reflected.)
Infant mortality rates. Infant death is hard to understand and it can bring anger, pain, sadness, and confusion. Causes of infant deaths vary, but could include sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), birth defects, pre-term/low birthweight, problems with the pregnancy, accidents, or respiratory distress syndrome.
The leading causes of infant death include congenital abnormalities, pre-term/low birth weight, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), problems related to complications of pregnancy, and respiratory distress syndrome.
Of great concern to African Americans is sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). SIDS is the sudden and unexplained death of a baby under one year of age. African American mothers have higher rates of SIDS, compared to non-Hispanic white mothers. SIDS is the sudden and unexplained death of a baby under one year of age. American Indian/Alaska Native mothers have the highest rates of SIDS of all groups of women.
According to data released in 2007 by the Office of Minority Health, the infant mortality rate in 2004 for African American infants was more than twice the rate for non-Hispanic White infants (13.6 deaths per 1,000 live births for African Americans vs. 5.7 for non-Hispanic Whites). In American Indian and Alaska Native populations, the death rate is 51% higher than in non-Hispanic Whites. American Indian/Alaska Natives Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) mortality rate is 1.9 times the SIDS mortality rate for non-Hispanic Whites. Although the infant mortality rate for Hispanic infants is the same as the rate for non-Hispanic White infants, within the Puerto Rican subgroup, the infant mortality rate was 40% higher than non-Hispanic Whites.
- African American mothers were 2.6 times as likely as non-Hispanic white mothers to begin prenatal care in the 3rd trimester, or not receive prenatal care at all.
- African Americans had 2.1 times the sudden infant death syndrome mortality rate as non-Hispanic whites.
- The infant mortality rate for African American mothers with over 13 years of education was almost three times that of Non-Hispanic White mothers in 2004.
- American Indian/Alaska Natives have 1.5 times the infant mortality rate as non-Hispanic whites.
- American Indian/Alaska Native babies are twice as likely as non-Hispanic white babies to die from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), but they are less likely to die from complications related to low birthweight or congenital malformations as compared to non-Hispanic whites babies.
- American Indian/Alaska Native infants are 3.6 times as likely as non-Hispanic white infants to have mothers who began prenatal care in the 3rd trimester or not receive prenatal care at all.
- Among Asian/Pacific Islanders, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the fourth leading cause of infant mortality.
- The infant mortality rate for Asian/Pacific Islanders was 30% greater for mothers under 20 years old, as compared to mothers, ages 30-34 years old.
- Puerto Ricans have a 40% higher infant mortality rate of non-Hispanic whites.
- Among Hispanic Americans, the infant mortality rate ranges from 4.6 per 1,000 live births for Cubans to 7.8 per 1,000 live births for Puerto Ricans.
- Hispanic mothers are 2.5 times more likely to begin prenatal care in the 3rd trimester or not receive prenatal care at all as compared to non-Hispanic white mothers.
Smoking And Pregnancy: A Critical Risk Factor For Pregnant Females
Smoking during pregnancy causes health problems for both mothers and babies, such as pregnancy complications, premature birth, low-birth-weight infants, stillbirth, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
According to 2004 Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS), approximately 13% of women reported smoking during the last 3 months of pregnancy. Twenty percent of American-Indian woman smoke during the last 3 months of pregnancy compared with 16% of white women, 10% of African-American women and 5% of Hispanic women.
Low birth-weight live births. Low birth-weight infants are born weighing less than 2,500 grams, or roughly less than 5.5 pounds. These infants are less likely to survive, and they have a higher risk of disability if they live. Minority women, particularly African-American women, are at relatively high risk for giving birth to low birth-weight infants, both prematurely and at term. Preterm birth (less than 37 weeks gestation) is the leading cause of death for African American babies. African American women have the highest incidence of low birth weight (less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces/ 2500 grams) infants among all ethnic groups. While most causes of low birth weight and preterm birth are unknown, it is very clear that smoking, alcohol, drug use, and poor nutrition significantly increases the risk of low birth weight and preterm delivery.
Last updated July 10, 2008
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