COVID-19 led to a significant increase in the number of women who died of pregnancy or childbirth complications in the United States last year, a crisis that has been disproportionately claimed. black And the Hispanic The victims are women, according to a report released on Wednesday.
The report identifies bleak trends across the country for expectant mothers and their newborns.
It found that pregnancy-related deaths have risen nearly 80% since 2018, and COVID-19 was a factor in a quarter of the 1,178 deaths reported last year. The proportion of premature and low-birth-weight babies also rose last year, after being stable for years. More women who are pregnant or postpartum report symptoms of depression.
“We were really in the middle of a crisis with maternal deaths in our country,” said Karen Tab-Dina, a maternal health researcher at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “It really shows that COVID-19 has exacerbated that crisis to rates that we, as a country, cannot handle.”
The nonpartisan US Government Accountability Office, which wrote the report, analyzed pregnancy-related deaths after it tasked Congress with reviewing maternal health findings in the 2020 coronavirus relief bill.
The maternal mortality rate in the United States is higher than many other developed countries and has been on the rise in the years leading up to the pandemic, but COVID-19 has only worsened conditions here for pregnant women.
Women infected with the virus during pregnancy face high health risks. Staff shortages and COVID-19 restrictions have created more obstacles to expecting mothers to access personal health care; And pandemic stress has exacerbated depression, a common condition during pregnancy.
Tab Dina said mental health issues likely contributed to the increase in pregnancy-related deaths. Many women who experience depression and anxiety during or after pregnancy struggle to get the care they need.
“Mental health is the biggest pregnancy complication that we don’t understand,” she said.
Carolyn Yucomb, director of the Government Accountability Office, noted that the biggest spike in deaths came during July-December last year, as the COVID-19 delta variant infected millions.
“It’s really clear from the data that the time that the delta variant spread seems to correspond to a massive increase in deaths,” Yucom said.
The maternal mortality rate is particularly stark for black women, who have faced worse maternity outcomes than their peers for a long time.
Pregnancy-related deaths per 100,000 live births rose from 44 in 2019 to 68.9 among black women last year. The death rate for white women was 26.1 last year, a jump from 17.9 in 2019.
death rate Among Hispanics is on the decline, but has swelled again during the pandemic from 12.6 per 100,000 in 2019 to 27.5 last year.
Black and Hispanic people have also died at higher rates from the novel coronavirus, in part because they have less access to medical care and often work in essential jobs that expose them to the virus.
Long before the spread of COVID-19, the arena was set for black, low-income, and rural women to receive substandard pregnancy care — putting them at greater risk for a poor pregnancy, according to a separate report from the Government Accountability Office.
Hospitals Their obstetric services have been abandoned in rural areas, low-income and predominantly black communities, that report said.
The review found that more than half of rural counties did not have a hospital providing pregnancy care as of 2018.
The report found that “loss of hospital obstetric services in rural areas is associated with increased out-of-hospital and premature deliveries, which may contribute to poor maternal and infant outcomes.”