April 9 (UPI) -- A group of some 30 House Democrats joined Tuesday to form the Black Maternal Health Caucus with the aim to cut the maternal death rate among black women in the United States.
Reps. Alma Adams of North Carolina and Lauren Underwood of Illinois announced the new caucus to bring attention to the issue.
"Though it spends the most [money], the U.S. has the worst maternal death rate in the developed world," Underwood said in a tweet. "Rate is nearly [four times] worse for black women than white women, even adjusted for education [and] income."
She said after three decades, these disparities haven't improved and the caucus seeks solutions to preventable deaths.
Among those joining the caucus were a number of leaders in the House, including House Democratic leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland, House Democratic Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina and Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland.
"It is incredibly distressing that black mothers are more likely than women of other races to die of preventable, pregnancy-related complications," Cummings said on Twitter. "I am proud to join the Black Maternal Health Caucus. We must do everything in our power to prevent maternal deaths."
According to analysis by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the overall pregnancy-related mortality rate has been on the rise in the United States over the past three decades. The number rose from 7.2 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 1987 to 18 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2014.
Between 2011 and 2014, the average rate of deaths for white women was 12.4 per 100,000 live births. For black women it was 40 deaths and for women of other races it was 17.8 deaths.
The most common cause of pregnancy-related maternal deaths is cardiovascular disease, responsible for 15.2 percent of all maternal deaths between 2011 and 2014. That's followed by non-cardiovascular diseases (14.7 percent), infection or sepsis (12.8 percent), hemorrhage (11.5 percent), and cardiomyopathy (10.3 percent). Other complications include thrombotic pulmonary embolism, cerebrovascular accidents, hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, amniotic fluid embolism and anesthesia complications. Some 6.5 percent of all maternal deaths have an unknown cause.