The United States’ maternal mortality rate is abysmal, and women of color are particularly vulnerable. No amount of fame or fortune can run interference when it comes to mothers dying or at-risk during pregnancy, childbirth, or early motherhood. And that holds especially true for African American women. At 26.4 per 100,000 live births, the U.S. has the worst rate of maternal death in the developed world—by several times over. Even more disquieting, the U.S. rate rose by 136 percent between 1990 and 2013.
About 650 U.S. women die each year during pregnancy, childbirth, or shortly after giving birth, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Compared to other countries – and not just newly developing ones – that figure is abysmal. In fact, according to a new study from the World Health Organization and others, the U.S. is one of just 13 countries where the maternal mortality rate has actually risen between 1990 and 2013. Other countries on that list include North Korea and Zimbabwe. The gross domestic product of Zimbabwe is $13.5 billion.