New statistics from the Centers for Disease Control paint an alarming picture of maternity care in the U.S. According to the CDC Vital Signs report, 20 percent of women reported some form of mistreatment during pregnancy and delivery care. 

Non-white women reported the highest levels of mistreatment at a rate of 30 percent among Black women, 29 percent among Hispanic women and 27 percent among multiracial women. 

“Every mother deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. Maternal care is a core component of this nation’s health care, and the Biden-Harris Administration is committed to improving maternal health outcomes,” said U.S. Department of Health and Human Services secretary Xavier Becerra. “Bias, stigma and mistreatment have no place in our health care systems.”

The most common types of mistreatment reported were:

● Receiving no response to requests for help.

● Being shouted at or scolded.

● Not having their physical privacy protected.

● Being threatened with withholding treatment or made to accept unwanted treatment.

Women without insurance saw a higher level of mistreatment at the time of delivery at 28 percent, while women with public insurance or private insurance saw their level of mistreatment at a rate of 26 percent and 16 percent respectively. 

Nearly 30 percent of women reported cases of discrimination during maternity care including reasons such as age, weight and income and this varied by race/ethnicity.

“As a doctor, mother, and Black woman, it is disheartening to hear how common mistreatment is and to see differences in mistreatment and discrimination during maternity care based on things like race and insurance coverage,” said CDC division of reproductive health director Dr. Wanda Barfield. “We know that racism and discrimination can lead to delays in treatment and sometimes tragic and preventable deaths. Health care provider training on unconscious bias and culturally appropriate care may be a first step in understanding how to provide respectful maternity care to all women.”

The CDC believes improving the quality of maternity care will help prevent pregnancy-related deaths. Currently, more than 45 percent of women report they held back from asking questions or discussing concerns with their provider during maternity care.

The most common reasons were:

● Thinking, or being told by friends or family, what they were feeling was normal.

● Not wanting to make a big deal about it or being embarrassed to talk about it.

● Thinking their health care provider would think they’re being difficult.

● Thinking their health care provider seemed rushed.

● Not feeling confident that they knew what they were talking about.

“As a health care community, we need to do all we can to make sure we are delivering equitable and respectful care to women during pregnancy and delivery,” said CDC chief medical officer Dr. Debra Houry. “Health systems, hospitals and providers can take steps to improve care and lower the risk of pregnancy-related complications and death for all women. These data show that we must do better to support moms.”