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Maternal Care in California Shows Gains, Room for Improvement


New research shows racial and ethnic disparities persist among pregnant women and new mothers in California.

The report, "Maternity Care in California: Delivering the Data" finds that African American women performed worse than their peers in other racial/ethnic groups in a number of areas including breastfeeding, prenatal visits and maternal mortality.

The research also shows Asian/Pacific women were most likely to have gestational diabetes and substance use was highest among Native American mothers on Medi-Cal.

Stephanie Teleki, senior program officer for the foundation, says the disparities highlighted in the report illustrate cracks in the system where improvement is needed.

“Which hospital door you walk through is going to determine to a very large degree of whether you’re getting a c-section or not. I think the same can be said for things like breastfeeding. If you have a hospital that has really excellent support staff for that, really focused on that, chances are you’re going to leave as a breastfeeding mom,” Teleki says. 

The report also shows the rate of teen pregnancies has declined in California since 2000.

In 2014, 5 percent of pregnant women were under the age of 20 compared to 11 percent in 2011.

During the same time, women 35 and older were more likely to be pregnant. In 2000, they made up 16 percent of pregnancies, and in 2014 they accounted for 20 percent.

“Women are waiting longer because more are in the workforce. They’re delaying to get their careers going and then have children. Combined with now the medical technology that is allowing women at later ages to have babies,” Teleki says.

But she says waiting longer still comes with health risks.

Women 40 and older had the highest maternal mortality rate among all age groups even though they only make up 4 percent of pregnancies, according the report.

Women between the age of 30 and 34 had the greatest share of pregnancies at 29 percent.