A Jump Of Maternal Mortality During COVID-19

COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts have taken a heavy toll on American mothers who were pregnant or just gave birth, said a new study.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, Maternal mortality increased by 18 per cent in 2020, which exceeded the 16 per cent increase in overall US mortality in 2020. However, the researchers from the University of Maryland and Boston University claimed that the maternal death rate after the start of COVID-19 pandemic was even higher, and disproportionately impacted Black and non-white Hispanic mothers.

The research letter published in JAMA Network Open by Marie Thoma in the UMD School of Public Health and Eugene Declercq in the BU School of Public Health compared maternal mortality data from March 2020, when the pandemic began, to April-December 2020.


In their analysis, they came across large increases in maternal death (33%) and late maternal deaths (41%) after March 2020 compared with before the pandemic, and conspicuous increases among Black and Hispanic mothers. Dr. Thoma, assistant professor of family science in the UMD SPH, said; “the increase was really driven by deaths after the start of the pandemic, which are higher than what we see for overall excess mortality in 2020.”

The researchers also noted that the existing and new disparities emerged after the pandemic with a 40% jump among already high rates for non-Hispanic Black women and a 74% jump among formerly lower rates in Hispanic women.

Meanwhile, Dr. Declercq (professor of community health sciences at BUSPH) said that it was for the first time in more than a decade that the maternal mortality rate for Hispanic women during the pandemic rose higher than that for non-Hispanic white women.


In their analysis of causes of maternal death, they found the largest increases were due to conditions directly related to COVID-19 (respiratory or viral infection) and conditions made worse by COVID-19 infection, such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease. However, interruptions to the health care system could have led to delayed prenatal care that could have meant that risk factors for pregnancy complications went undetected. “We need more detailed data on the specific causes of maternal deaths overall and those associated with COVID-19,” Dr. Thoma said. “Potentially we could see improvements in 2021 due to the rollout of vaccines, as well as the extension of postpartum care provided for Medicaid recipients as part of the American Rescue Act of 2021 in some states. We’re going to continue to examine this,” the researcher said.


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