U.S. Sees Major Spike in Pregnancy-Linked Deaths
Monday, March 20, 2023
New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show another increase in the nation's maternal mortality rate, and a Minnesota expert says there are several underlying factors.
The report, released last week, covers data from 2021. That year, deaths of pregnant women or new mothers in the U.S. went up by nearly 40% over the previous year.
The agency says it follows gradual increases leading up to the pandemic as well.
Dr. Stephen Contag is an associate professor in the Maternal-Fetal Medicine division at the University of Minnesota Medical School. He said improved reporting is playing a role.
But he added that there are other issues at play.
"Disparities in transportation," said Contag. "Getting to health care. Or differences in the number of obstetricians or health providers that can provide that care to patients in certain parts of the country."
The findings show that Black women are especially affected by this issue. The maternal mortality rate for this population rose by nearly 70%, compared with nearly 25% for white women.
Some health experts say COVID-19 likely played a role in the 2021 spike, and that the big jump may have peaked. But there's concern the other factors will keep pressure on these rates.
The maternal death disparities have been documented in Minnesota as well. Contag said he sees hope in reversing trends, including changing how the state's Maternal Mortality Review Committee works.
The panel is now operating under a mandate.
"Now that we have that mandate," said Contag, "it's much easier to obtain the information that we need to review these cases in a fair manner."
He suggested that will lead to more recommendations that get to the root causes of these deaths.
And earlier this year, a new Minnesota law took effect, expanding postnatal care by requiring public and private health plans to cover a series of care visits for up to 12 weeks after a baby is delivered.
Two of those visits would have to involve comprehensive care.
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