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Experts worry as CDC data shows US maternal death rate rose sharply in 2021

What Pregnant And Breastfeeding Women Need To Know About Coronavirus
Posted at 3:15 PM, Mar 16, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-16 17:42:39-04

(WXYZ) — In today’s Health Alert, the rate of women dying from pregnancy or childbirth has steadily risen in the U.S. However, maternal death rates jumped significantly during the second year of the pandemic - by nearly 40%.

This new report comes from the National Center for Health Statistics. Federal data shows that 1,205 people died of maternal causes in 2021, translating into 32.9 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. Now, that may not sound like a lot, but let me provide some perspective. In 2018, there were 658 maternal deaths. In 2019, there were 754 and in 2020, there were 861.

Also, the U.S. has one of the highest maternal death rates when comparing developed nations. For example, Australia, Japan, and Spain had around 2 and 3 maternal deaths per 100,000 in 2020, while the U.S. had 23.8.

So who is dying? Well, unfortunately, there are racial disparities. Black women had alarmingly high rates - more than twice as high as White women. The report found the death rate for Black women was 69.9 deaths per 100,000 live births, compared to 26.6 per 100,000 for White women. Also, age played a role. The maternal death rate for women 40 and older was 138.5 per 100,000. Whereas the rate for those between 25 to 39 was 31.3.

The CDC released data on pregnancy-related deaths between 2017 and 2019. And over 80% were considered preventable. Of course, that was before the pandemic. COVID-19 most likely contributed to the sharp increase in maternal deaths in 2021. Research found pregnant people were more vulnerable to severe complications from the virus and had a higher chance of blood clots, preeclampsia, and being placed on a ventilator. This increased their risk of morbidity and mortality.

But while COVID contributed to maternal deaths, it’s not entirely to blame. Our rates were already steadily climbing for three decades before COVID struck. And chronic conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity created added risks. On top of that, we can’t ignore other factors like provider shortages, lack of access to quality care, lack of mental health services, and structural racism.

My advice is to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as it helps protect both Mom and the baby. Also, maintain a healthy diet and weight, get regular exercise, and tackle any health problems before getting pregnant. Lastly, get regular health care before, during, and after pregnancy. And if concerned about anything, always speak up and address the issue.

This week on the Dr. Nandi Show Dr. Partha Nandi, MD, dives deep into the controversial topic of discrimination with a powerful group of guests. He is joined by sociologist Dr. Christine Carter, and psychologist Dr. Gail Parker, who discuss automatic or unconscious biases and how they manifest and affect the health of an individual. Also, Holocaust survivor Renee Lichtman shares his experience in France and the stereotyping he faced even from those hiding him. And an incredibly talented Ethiopian-born Detroiter performs a powerful and passionate poem, “Mezeker Means to Remember”. Tune in Sunday, March 19th at 5 pm.