Maternal Morbidity & Mortality

“I had to advocate for my medical treatment and fight for my baby. Women have to speak up, sometimes loudly and firmly, to be heard and taken seriously. We know our bodies best.”

Elaine Diaz, Wyandotte, KS

Maternal Morbidity

What is maternal morbidity? Health complications and near-miss death experiences mothers face when pregnant, giving birth or postpartum. There are 21 indicators of maternal morbidity, including such complications as aneurysms, cardiac arrest, eclampsia and blood transfusions.

Why does maternal morbidity matter? It impacts one in every 173 live births, and there are 70 morbidity experiences for every pregnancy-associated death.* It’s also important to note that Black women experience morbidity rates DOUBLE that of White women, as reported by multiple sources, including the American Journal of Managed Care.

In 2021, Nurture KC released this Maternal Morbidity in Kansas City Report. It provides aggregated, baseline data to inform the work at Nurture KC and in our community. More importantly, the data is coupled with the real-life, near-miss experiences of two moms – Elaine Diaz and Daysha Lewis – in our Healthy Start Program. They bravely share their stories and lessons learned. Finally, the report delves into morbidity SOLUTIONS at the local, state and national level. Check it out to learn how we can level the maternal playing field and change how all mothers receive care.

*Source: 2020 Maternal Mortality Report


Maternal Mortality

Sadly, Missouri ranks 44th in the nation in maternal mortality rates at 35 deaths per 100,000 births.* To put this in even sharper perspective, Missouri trails Romania in maternal mortality. While most of the developed world has experienced a decline in maternal and infant mortality, the United States, including Missouri, remains stubbornly stuck and has even experienced an uptick in deaths from 2016-2018. Missouri’s mortality rate for Black moms skyrockets to 65 deaths per 100,000 births, a rate that is double the state rate. Plus, Black moms are dying at TRIPLE the rate as White moms in Missouri. We can, and must, do better!

In addition to health, we must examine the underlying causes of maternal health disparity, including systemic racism that puts Black mothers and babies at risk. The importance of good health before, during and after pregnancy is key to improving maternal health outcomes. Leading causes of maternal death include excessive bleeding, high blood pressure, heart disease, and blood clots. Rising rates of obesity and poor overall health contribute to these outcomes. Missouri also has very high rates of tobacco use among pregnant women at 15.3%, more than double the national average of 7.2%. This speaks only to the worst outcome and does not account for morbidity, near misses.

Nurture KC works to improve maternal mortality rates through education, advocacy and health care equity for minority mothers. Regardless of race, place or circumstance, all mothers deserve the opportunity to be healthy.

*Source: Maternal mortality rates by state from World Population Review.