Maternal death rates climbed in Washington over the last two decades, with Indigenous communities seeing disproportionately high increases.
That’s according to new research published this week. The nationwide study, released by the University of Washington, found a 71.2% increase in the state’s maternal mortality for the American Indian and Alaska Native population when comparing 1999-2009 to 2010-2019. The increase among white people between the same time periods was 52.9%.
The study is the first to provide a breakdown of the statistics for every state, as States Newsroom reported on Monday. It included information about mothers who died while pregnant or up to one year afterward from causes related to pregnancy, such as hemorrhage, and excluded deaths from unintentional injuries, homicides, suicides and “pregnancy-associated causes of death such as mental health disorders,” which may underestimate “the true burden of mortality.”
The report found that Washington’s maternal mortality rates overall were lower than the national average. But Washington was in the top five states with the highest maternal mortality rates for the American Indian and Alaska Native group in 2019, Greg Roth, one of the study’s researchers, told The Standard in an email.
A state maternal mortality report from 2023 found from 2014 to 2020, American Indians and Alaska Natives had a rate of around 263 deaths per every 100,000 births. The overall rate was 37 deaths per every 100,000 births.
The University of Washington study also found stark disparities in other racial and ethnic groups in the state. Black people had a rate of around 78 deaths per every 100,000 births and the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander population saw around 85 deaths per every 100,000 births.
In Washington, 80% of pregnancy-related deaths were preventable, according to the study.
Roth said improved access to prenatal and postpartum health care, connections to primary care and mental health resources, routine medication reviews during any health care visit, and anti-bias training for health care providers could help.