Mistreatment During Maternity Care Adding to the Rising Maternal Mortality Rate

According to a new report published by the CDC, about 20% of women reported mistreatment while receiving maternity care. Adding to this, 30% of Black, Hispanic, and multiracial women reported mistreatment. Almost half (45%) of women held back from asking questions or sharing concerns during their maternity care. These findings indicate that quality of care contributes to the alarming maternal mortality rate in the United States.


“This is unacceptable,” Dr. Debra Houry, chief medical officer for the CDC, said on a call with reporters. “We know mistreatment and discrimination can have a negative impact on the quality of maternity care. We have to encourage a culture of respectful maternity care. This should be part of greater efforts to improve quality by standardizing care to reduce complications and deaths related to pregnancy and delivery,” quoted in USA Today.

The most common types of mistreatment reported were:

  • Not receiving any responses to requests for help (9.7%); 
  • Being shouted at or scolded (6.7%); 
  • Physical privacy violated (5.1%); and
  • Threatened to have treatment withheld or made to accept unwanted treatment (4.6%).

The CDC has found that 80% of all maternal deaths are preventable. An improvement in the quality of maternity care could significantly improve the maternal mortality rate in the United States. 

The CDC recommends the following to improve the quality of maternity care:

  • Healthcare systems can support care that is respectful and considers the patient’s values, needs, and desires (i.e., patient-centered care) equally for all mothers.
  • Maternity care providers can ensure patients are engaged in their health care and feel heard and respected.
  • Communities can raise awareness of respectful care and promote health equity.


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