Complications of Childbirth: Racial & Ethnic Disparities in Severe Maternal Morbidity in New York State



Funding Area

Empowering Health Care Consumers


August 2020

Empowering Health Care Consumers

This NYSHealth analysis finds that New York mothers have high rates of serious complications related to childbirth, with significant disparities across racial and ethnic groups. It also highlights local and statewide efforts to improve maternal health and reduce disparities.

In 2018, the overall rate of severe maternal morbidity (potentially life-threatening complications during or after childbirth) was 2.7% in New York State. But Black women were 2.3 times more likely than white women to experience such complications. Rates among Hispanic women were 1.7 times higher than for white women; among Asian women, rates were 1.5 times higher compared with white women. Such racial and ethnic disparities have persisted over the study period, which began in 2011.

Key Takeaways:

  • In 2018, the overall rate of serious maternal health complications was approximately 271 out of every 10,000 deliveries, or 2.7%. This potentially amounts to nearly 6,000 women in New York State who experienced these complications.
  • Disparities by race and ethnicity persisted from 2011 through 2018. They were seen in patients with private and Medicaid insurance plans, across all regions of New York State, and among women who had vaginal and cesarean deliveries.
  • In 2018, the rate of severe maternal morbidity for Black women delivering was 447 per 10,000 deliveries—2.3 times higher than among white women, for whom the rate was 191 per 10,000 deliveries. The rate for Hispanic women was approximately 1.7 times the rate for white women; the rate for Asian women was approximately 1.5 times higher than the rate for white women.
  • Substantial regional variation exists within New York State. In 2018, rates of complications were more than three-and-a-half times higher in the region with the highest rate—New York City (324 per 10,000 deliveries)—compared with the region with the lowest rate—the Finger Lakes (90 per 10,000 deliveries).
  • The majority of serious maternal health complications were related to blood transfusions. The number of blood transfusions has increased over time, which may be reflective of recent improvements in identifying and treating severe maternal hemorrhage. However, complications unrelated to blood transfusions have largely remained steady between 2011 and 2018.

2.7 % Overall rate of serious maternal health complications in New York State in 2018.
3.5 x Rate of complications for mothers in New York City compared with mothers in the Finger Lakes.
2.3 x Likelihood of a Black mother in New York State experiencing severe maternal morbidity, compared with a white mother.