Maternal deaths jumped in U.S. since the pandemic started – San Bernardino Sun

An increasing number of women have died during pregnancy or not long after giving birth since the beginning of the pandemic, according to a new report released Wednesday, Feb. 23.

The study released by the National Center for Health Statistics, discovered that the rate of maternal deaths jumped 14 percent to 861 in 2020 from 754 in 2019.

The United States has the highest maternal mortality death rate for mothers compared to other developed countries, the report said.

Pregnant during the pandemic

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Each year, about 700 women die from pregnancy-related causes nationwide. The report shows that those numbers went up since the pandemic began.

The World Health Organization defines maternal death as “the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the duration and the site of the pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management, but not from accidental or incidental causes.”

The nation’s maternal mortality rate went up to 23.8 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2020 from 20.1 deaths in 2019, according to the study. For comparison, maternal mortality rates in Norway and New Zealand ranged from fewer than two deaths per 100,000 live births and to below nine deaths per 100,000 live births in France and Canada.

Meanwhile, the highest number of deaths is reported among Black women. Nearly 30 percent of the expecting and new mothers who died in 2020 were Black, about three times of White women.

The mortality rate for Hispanic women has also been on the rise in 2020 similar to the rate for White expectant mothers.

The report did not release figures for American Indian women.

The number of deaths among all pregnant women older than 24 has increased, particularly in those 40 and older. Their mortality rate was about eight times of women younger than 25.

Dr. Christina Han, division director of maternal and fetal medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, said she wasn’t surprised by the rising numbers.

“The reason we are not surprised by this is that we know that COVID was hitting non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic woman in a disproportionate number and therefore we expected that there would be more mortality increases,” she said.

Other factors that contributed to poor outcomes, she added, were the ability of women to access care and insurance coverage as “people were hit in all aspects of their life.”

Ensuring that expectant mothers are vaccinated, she added, remains an important part of their protection plan.

“We know that Hispanic population and the Black population are under-vaccinated compared to the non-Hispanic White population and Asian population and that exposes them to potential risk,” she said. “Regardless of the variant of COVID that we’re talking about, we know pregnant individuals are at risk for adverse outcomes for themselves and all for the fetus.”

It’s going to be “one of the most important things to try to erase some of the inequities,” she said, adding that it’s important to “understand that we are working towards being allies as opposed to being an institution that they need to fear and try to avoid.”

Dr. Paniz Heidari, an obstetrician at Dignity Health Northridge Hospital, said it’s crucial for women to have regular checkups and take care of their health before they get pregnant.

She added women should learn about their health issues, especially their chronic diseases, before pregnancy, particularly “if they’ve got high blood pressure, or if they’ve got obesity or if they’ve got other underlying factors.”

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