Maternal Mortality Has Declined in California, But Disparities Persist

 California women are significantly less likely to die from childbirth complications than mothers nationwide, but racial disparities persist, according to a new report.

There were 7.3 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in California in 2013, according to the California Health Care Foundation report released Wednesday. Nationwide, during the same year there were 22 maternal deaths for the same number of live births.

But African American women in California were more than three times as likely as women from other racial or ethnic groups in the state to die from childbirth complications.

An average of 26.4 African American mothers died per 100,000 live births between 2011 and 2013. For Asian and Pacific Islander women, the figure was 7.8; for white women, it was 7; and for Latina women, it was 4.9.

“California has made significant progress in reducing maternal mortality rates, in contrast to the nation, whose rates continued to rise,” the report states. “While all race/ethnicity and age groups in California have experienced reductions in maternal mortality rates, there were still substantial differences across racial/ethnic groups.”

The report also notes that the total number of births declined about 5 percent from 2000 to 2014 in California. Still, one in eight of all births in the U.S. occurred in California in 2014.

One in five California women who gave birth in 2013 experienced either prenatal or postpartum depression, researchers found.

The state’s rate of cesarean sections has increased sharply in recent years, from one-fifth of all births in 1997 to one-third in 2014.

“While critical in some circumstances, c-sections can pose serious risks for baby and mother,” the report states.

C-sections are also more expensive than vaginal births. From 2010 to 2013, the total average payment for cesarean deliveries was nearly 50 percent more than the cost of vaginal births.

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