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Maternal Mortality and Health Disparities

January 18, 2021
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WRITTEN BY Dr. Jill Barnas

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention defines maternal mortality as a pregnancy-related death of a woman while pregnant or within one-year postpartum for any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy. Maternal mortality rates are widely used as a proxy for health care system quality. In recent years, the maternal mortality rate in Missouri has been higher than the national rate and is considered to be one of the worst in the United States. There are evident disparities in the risk of maternal mortality by ethnicity and race, maternal age, access to care, and socio-economic status. Policies and practices can reduce maternal mortality, health disparities, and improve maternity care for all women in Missouri.


  • Missouri’s maternal mortality rate is 40.7 per 100,000 live births – ranked 44th in the nation.
  • African American/Black Missourians are at three times greater risk for maternal mortality than White Missourians.


  • Only one recent report has evaluated maternal mortality in Missouri, specifically. Therefore, it is challenging to identify failures, problems with quality care, and other social determinants of health without more data.
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