TThe US maternal mortality rate, already well above that of comparable countries, skyrocketed during the pandemic.
More than 1,200 women in the US died from complications of pregnancy or childbirth in 2021, a 40% increase from 2020, according to data released Thursday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s 32.9 deaths per 100,000 live births.
The spread of COVID-19 was partly responsible for the dismal statistics, with about a quarter of deaths in 2020 and 2021 attributed to the virus, according to an October report by the US Government Accountability Office. However, the new data suggest little progress has been made on other factors contributing to the US’s uniquely high maternal mortality rate.
Before the pandemic, a quarter of pregnancy-related deaths could be traced to suicide, overdose or other mental illness, the CDC said in September. The group said more than 80% of deaths are preventable.
Continue reading: You can do everything “right” and still have a premature birth
Long marginalized groups continue to suffer the most. The 2021 mortality rate for black mothers was 69.9 deaths per 100,000 live births, more than double the rate for white mothers. The annual jumps for all groups were “significant,” according to the report.
About a quarter of maternal deaths occurred during pregnancy and another quarter within a week of delivery, the CDC found in a 2017-2019 study. The remaining 50% of deaths occurred in the first year of pregnancy. After suicide, the leading causes of death were excessive bleeding, heart problems, and infections.
Broadening access to insurance coverage to improve pregnancy and post-natal care and increasing transportation to medical facilities could help reduce mortality rates, according to the CDC.
Other studies suggest the US could make better use of programs that have helped reduce deaths elsewhere, such as B. the widespread use of midwives, universal health care and maternity leave. According to 2021 data from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the country’s death rate is more than three times Canada’s, eight times Britain’s and nearly 11 times Australia’s.
In June, the White House released a plan to address high mortality rates among new and expectant mothers, including requiring states to extend Medicaid coverage from two months to a year after childbirth. It also requested $470 million for initiatives such as implicit bias training for healthcare providers, and research and data collection.
More must-reads from TIME