(AP). According to a government report, pregnancy-related deaths in the United States for mothers rose in the first year of the pandemic. This continues a trend that has been going on for decades and which disproportionately impacts Black people.
In 2020, there were 24 deaths per 100,000 births or 861 deaths in total. These numbers reflect the deaths of mothers during pregnancy, childbirth, and the year following. In 2019, the rate was 20 for every 100,000.
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Researchers said that the reasons for this trend were not included in the National Center for Health Statistics’ report. They also did not examine how COVID-19, which can increase risks for severe pregnancy illness, could have contributed.
Coronavirus may have had an indirect impact. People waited to seek medical attention early during the pandemic because they were afraid of contracting the virus. The virus surges caused strain in the health system which could have an impact on pregnancy-related deaths. Eugene Declercq is a professor at Boston University School of Public Health and a maternal death researcher.
He called high rates “terrible news” and pointed out that the U.S. has a worse maternal mortality rate than other developed countries.
The number of pregnancies-related deaths per 100,000 births increased from 44 to 55 among Blacks in 2019 to 55 in 2020, and from 13 to 18, among Hispanics, from 13 to 18. The 2020 rate for whites was 19 per 100,000 births. This rate was basically unchanged.
The data does not include the reasons for these disparities. Experts have blamed many factors for these disparities, including different rates of underlying conditions, poor access quality healthcare and structural racism.
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Dr. Laura Riley, OB/GYN chief at Weill Cornell Medicine, New York, said that this is a very sad and frightening news for Black women.
Dr. Janelle Bolden is an assistant OB/GYN professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and said that the report is not surprising.
“The pandemic exposed the disparities in care access, quality, and delivery. Bolden stated that the pandemic has exposed the inadequacies of public health and social services, which many people depend on for their basic needs. These inadequacies and disparities lead to poor care .”
In 35 years, the U.S. maternal death rate has tripled. It was 16 deaths per 100,000 births a decade ago. It has increased with increasing rates of obesity, heart disease, and cesarean section, which all increase the risks to people giving birth.