Higher numbers of Black, Hispanics, and Multiracial Women report Mistreatment During Maternity Care

A new report from CDC Vital Signs has revealed that around twenty percent of surveyed women encountered mistreatment during their pregnancy and delivery care. This issue was particularly pronounced among Black, Hispanic, and multiracial women, with rates reaching 30%, 29%, and 27% respectively.

Xavier Becerra, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, emphasized the importance of treating all mothers with dignity and respect, asserting that maternal care is a fundamental aspect of the nation’s healthcare system. He added that there’s no room for bias, stigma, or mistreatment within healthcare systems.

The study found that women without insurance (28%) or those with public insurance (26%) during delivery faced more mistreatment compared to those with private insurance (16%). The most commonly reported forms of mistreatment included:

  1. Not receiving a response to requests for assistance.
  2. Experiencing shouting or scolding.
  3. Lack of physical privacy protection.
  4. Threats to withhold treatment or coercion into unwanted treatment.

The CDC analyzed data from the Porter Novelli View Moms survey, conducted in English between April 24-30, 2023, to investigate respectful care components. While most of the 2,402 respondents expressed satisfaction with their maternity care, those who endured mistreatment reported lower satisfaction levels.

Enhancing the quality of maternity care is considered a crucial strategy to prevent pregnancy-related fatalities. Every woman should receive respectful maternity care that safeguards their dignity, privacy, and confidentiality, ensures protection from harm and mistreatment, and facilitates shared decision-making with continuous support.

Dr. Debra Houry, the Chief Medical Officer at the CDC, stressed the healthcare community’s responsibility to deliver equitable and respectful pregnancy and delivery care. She highlighted the importance of improvements in care to reduce the risk of pregnancy-related complications and deaths for all women.

Approximately 29% of women disclosed experiencing discrimination during maternity care. Discrimination was most frequently attributed to age, weight, and income, with variations based on race and ethnicity. Black (40%), multiracial (39%), and Hispanic (37%) women reported the highest incidence of discrimination, a phenomenon previously linked to pregnancy complications.

Alarming data showed that nearly half (45%) of women refrained from asking questions or discussing concerns with their healthcare providers during maternity care for various reasons, such as:

  1. Belief, or advice from friends or family, that their feelings were normal.
  2. Reluctance to make a fuss or embarrassment in discussing issues.
  3. Concerns about appearing difficult to their healthcare provider.
  4. Perception of their healthcare provider being rushed.
  5. Lack of confidence in their understanding of their condition.

Effective communication between healthcare providers and patients is crucial in building trust and ensuring high-quality care. Patients should feel comfortable sharing their health concerns with providers, as this could lead to more accurate and timely treatment for pregnancy-related complications.

Dr. Wanda Barfield, the Director of CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health, emphasized the distressing prevalence of mistreatment and disparities in maternity care based on factors like race and insurance coverage. She suggested that healthcare provider training on unconscious bias and culturally appropriate care could be an initial step toward providing respectful maternity care to all women.

Respectful maternity care should be integrated into various actions at multiple levels to reduce pregnancy-related deaths:

  • Healthcare systems should encourage a culture of respectful maternity care by hiring a diverse workforce and training all staff to recognize unconscious bias and stigma.
  • Healthcare systems should promote quality improvement efforts with a focus on equitable maternity care for all women.
  • Healthcare professionals should take steps to ensure patients feel respected, understood, and valued during their care.
  • Everyone can support pregnant and postpartum women in accessing the care they require.

The CDC’s Hear Her campaign provides resources for both providers and pregnant or postpartum women, along with their support networks, to facilitate open communication with providers and recognize urgent maternal warning signs that necessitate immediate care.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Maternity Care: Supportive and Respectful Treatment During Labor and Delivery.” CDC, 2021.

Dr. Muhammad Hussain
Dr. Muhammad Hussain

MD, Entrepeneur & Administrator. Six years of experience, working in the field of clinical care, medical administration, and healthcare business.

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