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The Racial Disparities in Maternal Mortality and Impact of Structural Racism and Implicit Racial Bias on Pregnant Black Women: A Review of the Literature

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The maternal mortality rate (MMR) in the United States (USA) continues to increase despite medical advances and is exacerbated by stark racial disparities. Black women are disproportionately affected and are three times more likely to experience a pregnancy-related death (PRD) compared to Non-Hispanic White (NHW) women.


A literature review was conducted to examine the racial disparities in the United States' MMR, specifically among pregnant Black women. PubMed and key organizations (World Health Organization, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health, Association of American Medical Colleges, U.S. Census Bureau, and U.S. Congress) were searched for publications after 2014.


Forty-two articles were reviewed to identify the role of structural racism, implicit biases, lack of cultural competence, and disparity education on pregnant Black women. This review highlights that maternal health disparities for Black women are further impacted by both structural racism and racial implicit biases. Cultural competence and educational courses targeting racial disparities among maternal healthcare providers (MHCP) are essential for the reduction of PRDs and pregnancy-related complications (PRC) among this target population. Additionally, quality and proper continuity of care require an increased awareness surrounding the risk of cardiovascular diseases for pregnant Black women.


The surging MMR for Black women is a public health crisis that requires a multi-tiered approach. Interventions should be implemented at the provider and healthcare institution level to dismantle implicit biases and structural racism. Improving patient-provider relationships through increased cultural competency and disparity education will increase patient engagement with the maternal healthcare (MHC) system.

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KM conceptualized the paper, conducted the literature review, and drafted the manuscript. AE helped conceptualize the paper and reviewed drafts and the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Keisha E. Montalmant.

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Montalmant, K.E., Ettinger, A.K. The Racial Disparities in Maternal Mortality and Impact of Structural Racism and Implicit Racial Bias on Pregnant Black Women: A Review of the Literature. J. Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities (2023).

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