Racial Disparities Exist in County’s Pregnancy Outcomes, Study Finds

Montgomery County outperforms state and national averages related to maternal and infant health indicators, but discrepancies exist based on race, according to a report released by county health officials this month.

The report is the first of its kind. It includes information about pregnancy-related outcomes, comparing Montgomery County data to Maryland and U.S. statistics between 2008 and 2017.

Overall Findings

The county’s birth rate has been higher than the state’s and the country’s in recent years, despite Montgomery County following a national – and global – birth rate decline. Fertility rate, the number of births to women of childbearing age, has also seen a decrease in the county but outpaces Maryland and the U.S.

A rising number of Montgomery County women between ages 35 and 44 have been giving birth, which follows a statewide trend. The county’s rate has been consistently higher than Maryland’s average, however. The number of teenagers between ages 15 and 19 giving birth has decreased, maintaining a lower ratio than Maryland and the U.S. About 21 teenagers out of every 1,000 females in this age group gave birth in 2008, compared to about 10 per 1,000 in 2017.

Courtesy of Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services

 

Montgomery County also has lower percentages of unmarried women giving birth than the state and the country. The percentage of women without a high school education who gave birth fluctuated in the county between 2013 and 2017, but the trend seems to be decreasing in Maryland, according to the study.

The report shows that the county has seen overall lower rates of preterm and low-weight births, fetal and infant death, and severe maternal morbidity in recent years compared to Maryland and the U.S.

Racial Disparities

Although the county has been performing better than the state and national averages in most pregnancy-related respects, women from nonwhite racial groups are facing more difficulties during pregnancy.

“Montgomery County has the most diverse population in Maryland and is becoming more diverse over time,” county health officer Dr. Travis A. Gayles said in a statement. “The maternal and infant health, as well as health care utilization and costs associated with changing demography, social determinants and health care access are expected to be impacted exponentially.”

Hispanics have the highest percentage of births to unmarried women, teenagers and women without high school education compared to other groups. They also have the highest birth rate among the groups recorded. About 18 out of every 1,000 Hispanic women in the county gave birth in 2017.

Black women have the highest percentages of tobacco use during pregnancy and births with delayed or no prenatal care. They also experienced higher percentages of preterm and low-weight births, as well as increased infant and fetal death rates.

Courtesy of Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services

 

While the trend of maternal morbidity – severely complicated pregnancies and deliveries – is decreasing in the county, blacks experienced a 60 percent greater risk and Hispanics experienced a 46 percent greater risk than white women.

The Department of Health and Human Services provides services for pregnant women and infants, including a program geared toward decreasing the rate of black infant mortality and improving the likelihood of healthy pregnancy outcomes for black women. It also offers a care coordination service for pregnant teenagers enrolled in Montgomery County Public Schools and an at-risk infant program. The department will use the report’s findings to further guide its practices.

“Our goal is to utilize the data to enhance our many successful health programs and develop new, innovative and effective programs that are directly applicable to meeting the public health needs of Montgomery County,” Gayles said in a statement.

Click here to view the report, “Maternal and Infant Health in Montgomery County, Maryland, 2008-2017”

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Bryan Gallion

About Bryan Gallion

Bryan Gallion is a Spring 2019 intern for Montgomery Community Media. He is a senior multiplatform journalism major with a professional writing minor at the University of Maryland. Bryan can be reached at bgallion@mymcmedia.org.

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