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New NYC Report on Life-Threatening Pregnancy Complications Shows Striking Disparities Across Race, Ethnicity and Income

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has published the first ever surveillance report on life-threatening complications during pregnancy and childbirth (severe maternal morbidity, or SMM). The report was supported by a financial grant to the Fund for Public Health in New York from Merck, through its Merck for Mothers initiative.

Read the New York City, 2008-2012 Severe Maternal Morbidity report.

Severe Maternal Morbidity Report CoverApproximately 2,500 mothers in New York City suffer from life-threatening complications every year. Ultimately, whether a woman may be affected largely depends on her race, socioeconomic status, and level of education. In particular, the racial disparities are striking. Black non-Latina women are three times more likely to endure pregnancy complications than White non-Latina women.

According to the NYCDOH, “the economic burden of SMM was high with SMM deliveries costing, on average, $15,714 compared to $9,357 for deliveries without SMM (after adjusting for other drivers of cost). From 2008 to 2012, the total excess costs related to SMM in New York City exceeded $85 million, an extra $17 million each year.”

In the U.S., one of Merck for Mothers' primary focus areas is examining the underlying causes of poor maternal health outcomes. Supporting this research aligns with our desire to learn more about the reasons why women in the U.S. are experiencing complications during pregnancy and childbirth.  Knowing the depths of the problem is a critical first step in working to improve maternal health for the four million women who give birth in the U.S. every year.  New York City's pioneering research is a vital step toward making pregnancy and childbirth safer for women, regardless of their race and zip code.  We must continue to work towards understanding the root causes of these complications so policies that improve the health and well-being of mothers can be developed and implemented.