About 20 percent of patients reported mistreatment during pregnancy and delivery care, according to a revealing new survey on American maternal healthcare released by the CDC Tuesday.
The survey found that the most common types of mistreatment were receiving no response to requests for help (9.7 percent), being shouted at or scolded (6.7 percent), having their physical privacy violated (5.1 percent), and providers threatening to withhold treatment or making patients accept unwanted treatment (4.6 percent). The overall numbers were even higher for Black, Hispanic, and multiracial mothers, 30 percent of whom reported mistreatment.
The report comes as US maternal mortality rates remain alarmingly high, increasing from 17.4 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2018 to 32.9 in 2021, per the CDC. The maternal mortality rate for Black women? Nearly 70 deaths per 100,000 live births. The CDC has previously reported that over 80 percent of all pregnancy-related deaths were preventable.
Those chilling numbers mean that any data on maternal care quality should be looked at carefully, especially when that data is showing that pregnant people are being mistreated. While researchers noted that these survey results don’t directly link to maternal mortality, according to USA Today, it’s clear that there is room for improvement when it comes to the quality of US maternal care.
Part of it comes down to communication. According to the survey, nearly 45 percent of maternal patients said they held back from asking questions or sharing concerns during pregnancy and delivery, due to thinking that concerns were normal for pregnancy (28.8 percent of respondents), not wanting to make a big deal or being embarrassed to talk about issues (21.5 percent), or friends and family saying the issue was normal or they had similar experiences (21.2 percent).
Discrimination was also a common theme. While 29 percent of all respondents experienced discrimination while receiving maternity care, the number increased to 40 percent among Black respondents, 39 percent among multiracial respondents, and 37 percent among Hispanic respondents. The survey found that age (10 percent), weight (10 percent) and income (6.5 percent) were all areas in which respondents said they faced discrimination.
Health insurance also played a role in the kind of treatment patients received. Of respondents without health insurance, 28 percent reported experiencing mistreatment, along with 26 percent of respondents with public insurance. The number dropped to 16 percent when respondents had private insurance.
The data was pulled from the online Porter Novelli View Moms survey, which polled a group of 2,402 US mothers with children aged 18 or younger. The respondents were asked to report on maternity care experiences during pregnancy or delivery of their youngest child.
The results show a clear cause for concern, though the survey did note that 90 percent of respondents reported high satisfaction with maternity care. However, the number dipped to 75 percent among respondents who reported mistreatment, showing that mistreatment and discrimination clearly impact care experiences, as the CDC concludes in its report.
The survey results also show that communication is crucial when it comes to improving maternal care. “When there is good communication about health concerns between moms and providers,” the CDC notes, “it is more likely there will be accurate, timely diagnoses and treatment for potentially life-threatening pregnancy complications.”
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