Pregnancy-related deaths among Americans increased during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic. For Black pregnant people, a new government report shows the year was three-times more lethal, worsening a decades-long crisis.
The National Center for Health Statistics released a report Wednesday (February 23) indicating that the number of people in the US who died during pregnancy, child birth, or within the first year of the baby's life increased from 20 deaths per 100,000 births in 2019 to 24 deaths per 100,000 births in 2020. Overall, 861 pregnant people died in 2020, according to the report.
In 2020, the death rate among Black people was 55 deaths per 100,000 births –– nearly triple the rate of white people, jumping from 44 deaths per 100,000 births seen in 2019. Hispanic Americans also saw an increase from 13 deaths to 18 deaths per 100,000 births.
The US maternal mortality rate has more than tripled since 1987. In 2002, the overall rate was 16 deaths per 100,000 births.
Though this new report does not indicate specific Covid-19 or pandemic-related factors that may have contributed to the rise in pregnancy-related deaths, the disproportionate crisis has been ongoing for decades among Black Americans.
Racial bias, lack of access to adequate healthcare, even the race of the doctor delivering Black newborns have all been pointed to as contributing factors in maternal mortality in our community. With Covid-19, access to medical care was cut off to some as hospitals and healthcare facilities were overwhelmed.
"The pandemic has uncovered the disparities in access to care, healthcare quality, and delivery," Dr. Janelle Bolden, assistant OB-GYN professor at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, told NBC News.
"It has also laid bare the lack of support for public health and social agencies that many people rely on for basic needs," Bolden added. "These disparities and inadequacies lead to poor care and worse outcomes."
Black tech leaders have been working to combat the issue, creating apps to connect Black pregnant people to quality, culturally, competent care. Black doulas and midwives are also doing their part in delivering the next generations safely and with care.
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