During the first year of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, pregnancy-related deaths for mothers in the United States increased and they disproportionately affected Black people, according to the Associated Press.
In 2020 alone, there were 24 deaths per 100,000 births, which equaled 861 deaths total for the year. In 2019, the rate was 20 deaths per 100,000 births.
For Black people, the rate was 55 deaths per 100,000 births, triple the rate compared to white people.
From the Associated Press:
The report from the National Center for Health Statistics does not include reasons for the trend and researchers said they have not fully examined how COVID-19, which increases risks for severe illness in pregnancy, might have contributed.
The coronavirus could have had an indirect effect. Many people put off medical care early in the pandemic for fear of catching the virus, and virus surges strained the health care system, which could have an impact on pregnancy-related deaths, said Eugene Declercq, a professor and maternal death researcher at Boston University School of Public Health.
He called the high rates “terrible news” and noted that the U.S. has continually fared worse in maternal mortality than many other developed countries.
In 2019, the rate per 100,000 births was 44 deaths among Black people. This shows the increase in pregnancy-related deaths from 2019 to 2020, according to the Associated Press.
But in the report, no reasons were included for why the disparities for Black people are so high. Although, experts have said that some of the factors to blame for the differences in rates are underlying health conditions, poor access to quality health care and structural racism.
More from the Associated Press:
Dr. Janelle Bolden, an assistant OB-GYN professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, said the report is not surprising.
“The pandemic has uncovered the disparities in access to care, healthcare quality and delivery. It has also laid bare the lack of support for public health and social agencies that many people rely on for basic needs,″ Bolden said. “These disparities and inadequacies lead to poor care and worse outcomes.”
Over the last 35 years, the maternal mortality rate in the United States has tripled. 10 years ago, the rate was 16 deaths per 100,000 births, according to the Associated Press.