US maternal mortality soars amid widening racial disparities — Analysis

The number of pregnancies-related deaths in America rose for mothers during the Covid-19 pandemic’s first year. Black women were more at risk.

The US National Center for Health Statistics released data Wednesday showing a rising number of pregnancy-related deaths for American mothers in 2020. This growing trend disproportionately impacts non-white women. 

The 2020 maternal death toll was 861 (24 per 100,000 births). These deaths include those who died in childbirth or within the first 42 days of their pregnancy.

These numbers represent a significant increase from the 2019 average of 20 maternal deaths per 100,000 births, which was reported by US health officials. There were 754 fatalities. In the previous year, 17 people died per 100,000 births, a total number of 658. These numbers are more dramatic when they’re only considered non-white mothers. Black mothers died from pregnancy-related causes in an increase of 44 per 100,000 births between 2019 and 55. The number of Hispanic mothers who died during pregnancy rose from 13 to 18, while the rate for black women rose from 44 per 100,000 births in 2019 to 55 the next year. 

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Possible reasons for the disparities and the overall jump in deaths were not detailed in Wednesday’s report, though the coronavirus likely played some role, researchers said. 

“We observed increases across a broad number of categories, and Covid-19 likely contributed,”Donna Hoyert, the report’s author, spoke out to AFP regarding the findings. 

However, the US maternal mortality rate has seen steady increases over years. This is in addition to obesity and heart disease rates. Many other countries, on the other hand, have seen their numbers fall as more medical technology advances. 

Health officials reacted to Wednesday’s report by pointing to hurdles in the US to actually getting medical insurance, and said disparities in care were only made clearer by the pandemic. 

“The pandemic has uncovered the disparities in access to care, healthcare quality and delivery,” Dr. Janelle Bolden, assistant OB-GYN professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, told the Associated Press about the report. “It has also laid bare the lack of support for public health and social agencies that many people rely on for basic needs.”



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