Six Detroit mothers died yearly from 2008-11 as a result of pregnancy or childbirth – a rate three times the national average – statistics from Michigan’s Department of Community Health show.
Between 2008 and 2011, there were 26 pregnancy-related deaths, making the death rate 58.7 per 100,000 babiesm The Detroit News reports.
These numbers are higher than the maternal death rates in Libya, Uruguay and Vietnam. Detroit also has the highest infant mortality rate than any other U.S. city.
At both a local and a national level, maternal death rates are increasing.
“Its always surprising to me that we focus on the infant and forget about the mother,” said Dr. Priya Agrawal, executive director of Merck for Mothers, an initiative launched in 2011 to reduce maternal mortality.
Experts blamed the high maternal mortality rate on chronic health conditions that are more common in African-American women and poverty, which are barriers that often stop women from accessing proper health care services during pregnancy.
Detroit is 83 percent black and 42 percent of its residents live below the poverty line
“Clearly this is one of those examples where there is a glaring health care disparity,” said Dr. Gregory L. Goyert, division head for maternal fetal medicine at Henry Ford Health System.
“It always comes down to African-American women having a three to four times greater risk of maternal mortality than Caucasian women. When you have a population with large numbers of African- American women, you are going to have a higher rate of maternal mortality,” he said.
Obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure can all cause maternal deaths. If untreated, mothers can experience blood clots strokes, and other complications,
Preterm delivery is also the No. 1 killer of Detroit babies, according to the The Detroit News.
In the Tri-County area, Wayne County’s infant mortality rate is by far the highest. In 2012, Macomb County had more than 53 infant deaths, Oakland had 93 and Wayne County had 238 infant deaths in 2012, according to an infant mortality report from the Michigan Department of Community Health.
Infant illness and violence were also cited in The Detroit News report as the reasons aged children 18 and under die at a higher rate in Detroit than in any other U.S. city.
“The maternal death data speaks to the need for people to be healthy before conception,” said Wayne State University Associate Dean Dr. Sonia Hassan, a leading researcher on preterm delivery.