According to a government assessment released on Wednesday, COVID-19 was responsible for a sharp rise in the number of women in the United States who died from pregnancy- or childbirth-related problems in 2017.
This crisis disproportionately affected Black and Hispanic women.
The research outlines depressing national patterns for expecting moms and their newborn children.
It concludes that the number of deaths connected to pregnancy increased by over 80% during 2018, with COVID-19 contributing 25% of the 1,178 deaths reported in 2018.
After being constant for years, the percentage of preterm and low birth weight infants increased last year.
And more women who are expecting or just giving birth report depressive symptoms.
“We were already in the middle of a crisis with maternal mortality in our country,” said Karen Tabb Dina, a maternal health researcher at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
“This really shows that COVID-19 has exacerbated that crisis to rates that we, as a country, are not able to handle,” Dina added.
The 2020 coronavirus relief law required the nonpartisan U.S. Government Accountability Office to assess maternal health outcomes, and it did so by analyzing pregnancy-related mortality.
The maternal mortality rate in the United States is more significant than in many other industrialized countries.
It has been rising in the years before the pandemic, but COVID-19 has only made things worse for expectant mothers in our country.
Pregnant women who get the virus run a higher chance of developing health problems. More barriers to receiving in-person healthcare have been created by staffing shortages, COVID-19 restrictions, and pandemic stress, which has exacerbated depression, a frequent condition during pregnancy.
According to Tabb Dina, there has been an upsurge in mortality due to pregnancy.
Many pregnant women who experience depression and anxiety find it difficult to access the help they require.
According to Carolyn Yocom, a director at the Government Accountability Office, the COVID-19 delta variant infected millions of people from July through December last year, which saw the most significant increase in deaths.
The maternal death rate is especially dramatic for Black women, who have historically experienced lower maternal outcomes than their peers.
Black women had a rise in the number of pregnancy-related deaths per 100,000 births, from 44 in 2019 to 68.9 last year.
Death rates for white women rose from 17.9 in 2019 to 26.1 in 2018.
Hispanic mortality rates had been declining, but during the pandemic, they increased once more, rising from 12.6 per 100,000 in 2019 to 27.5 last year.
Because they frequently labor in vital jobs that exposed them to the virus and had less access to medical treatment, Black and Hispanic persons have also perished from COVID-19 at higher rates.
According to a different GAO investigation, Black, low-income, and rural women received inadequate prenatal care even before COVID-19 started spreading, increasing their risk for unplanned pregnancies.
According to that report, hospitals in rural, low-income, and predominately Black regions have been cutting back on obstetric services.
According to the analysis, more than half of rural counties are without a hospital that provides maternity care as of 2018.
In rural areas, the survey found, “the loss of hospital-based obstetric services is related with increases in out-of-hospital births and pre-term births, which may lead to poor maternal and infant outcomes.”