Jun 29, 2022 - Health

Maternal deaths jump during pandemic

Percentage change in maternal deaths per 100k live births, by race/ethnicity
Data: Thoma and Declercq, 2022, "All-Cause Maternal Mortality in the US Before vs During the COVID-19 Pandemic"; Chart: Nicki Camberg/Axios

Maternal mortality rates rose in the U.S. after COVID-19 took root, according to a new analysis, with deaths disproportionately impacting Hispanic and Black women.

Why it matters: COVID-19 itself, along with the way the pandemic delayed care for other conditions, likely contributed to the higher death toll during 2020, adding to the burden in a country that already had the highest maternal mortality rate among developed nations.

  • There were large increases in the rate of maternal deaths from viral and respiratory diseases in 2020, Marie Thoma, one of the study co-authors, told Axios, which was consistent with COVID being listed as a contributing cause of death.

Details: Maternal deaths from diabetes and hypertensive disorders also increased during the pandemic, which could be linked to diagnosed COVID infections or a byproduct of women delaying necessary care, Thoma said, although the data doesn't shed light on those links.

  • The pandemic led to an "unprecedented" increase in Hispanic pregnant women dying in 2020 compared to previous years, Thoma added, and highlighted disparities with Black pregnant women dying at higher rates than white women.

The bottom line: "[The pandemic] created a new disparity and exacerbated existing ones," Thoma said

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