A new report has found that the maternal mortality rate in the U.S. surged in 2021, the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, and disproportionately affected black women the most.
The maternal death rate was found to be twice in Black women compared to White women in the U.S., according to a report released Thursday.
As per National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), 1,205 women died in the U.S. during pregnancy or after giving birth in 2021. This figure is significantly up from 861 maternal deaths in 2020 and 754 in 2019.
What is shocking is that the U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate among high-income nations. Moreover, the number of deaths in the country in 2021 was the most since the mid-1960s.
“The most powerful country in the world should not be accepting this as a reality. This is a crisis, and we are taking action,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during a press briefing Thursday, ScienceAlert reported.
As per NCHS statistics, there were 32.9 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2021, compared to 23.8 per 100,000 in 2020 and 20.1 per 100,000 in 2019.
Further running the numbers, it was found that the maternal mortality rate in Black women in 2021 was 69.9 deaths per 100,000 live births, which is 2.6 times higher than in White women (26.6 deaths per 100,000).
The World Health Organization defines maternal mortality as the death of a woman during pregnancy or within 42 days after delivery due to any cause related to childbirth.
Though the NCHS report did not delineate the cause for the rise in U.S. maternal deaths in 2021 as well as for the difference in the figure between Black women and White women, medical experts pin the blame on the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The COVID-19 pandemic had a dramatic and tragic effect on maternal death rates, but we cannot let that fact obscure that there was – and still is – already a maternal mortality crisis,” said Iffath Abbasi Hoskins, president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, according to ScienceAlert.
Therefore, diminishing “racial health inequities” must be a top public health priority, Hoskins added.
“Pregnant and postpartum Black people continue to make up a disproportionate number of maternal deaths at growing and alarming rates,” Hoskins further said. “This trend must be stopped.”
The White House targeted Republicans for making the situation worse with attempts to repeal Obamacare law as well as cut Medicaid.
“It is incomprehensible and it is incredibly dangerous what we’re seeing from our Republican colleagues in Congress,” Jean-Pierre said, adding that Republicans are “working to gut health care for Americans.”
Approximately 40 percent of women rely on Medicaid coverage at the time of delivery, Pierre stated.
In related news, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recently issued a draft recommendation proposing a mandatory screening for hypertensive disorders in pregnant women. Hypertension is among the leading causes of pregnancy-related deaths.