U.S. maternal mortality rate dropped in 2022 after six-decade high blamed largely on COVID

New York – Deaths among pregnant women in the U.S. will decline in 2022, falling significantly from six-decade highs during the pandemic, new data shows. More than 1,200 American women died during pregnancy or shortly after childbirth in 2021, according to final statistics released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2022, there were 733 maternal deaths, according to preliminary agency data, though the final number is likely to be higher.

Maternal mortality rates are on track to approach pre-pandemic levels in 2022, officials say. But it’s not great: the rate before COVID-19 It was the highest in decades..

“From the worst to the closest? I wouldn’t exactly call it a success,” said Omari Maynard, a New Yorker whose partner died in childbirth in 2019.

At Risk: Mothers and Childbirth


The CDC counts women who die during pregnancy, childbirth, and up to 42 days after birth. Excessive bleeding, blockages in blood vessels and infection are the main causes.

COVID-19 can be especially dangerous for pregnant women, and experts believe this was the main reason for the increase in 2021. Some advocates said the burned doctors had increased the risk by ignoring the concerns of pregnant women.

In 2021, there were about 33 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births. The last time the government recorded a higher rate was in 1964.

The CDC says the COVID-19 vaccine is safe for pregnant women.


“It’s not that hard to explain,” said Eugene Declerc, a longtime maternal mortality researcher at Boston University. “The increase was related to COVID.”

Previous government analyzes concluded that a quarter of maternal deaths in 2020 and 2021 were related to Covid – meaning the entire increase in maternal deaths was due to coronavirus infection or the wider healthcare impact of the pandemic. was According to a recent study published by BMJ Global Health, pregnant women infected with the coronavirus were 8 times more likely to die than their uninfected counterparts.

Pregnant women’s bodies are already under stress, forcing their hearts to pump harder. Other health problems can make their condition more critical. And then on top of that, “COVID is going to make all of this a lot worse,” said Dr. Elizabeth Charot, chief medical and health officer at the March of Dimes.

It didn’t help that vaccination rates among pregnant women in 2021 were disappointingly low — especially among black women. Part of that had to do with the vaccine’s limited availability, and that the CDC didn’t fully recommend shots for pregnant women until August 2021.

“Initially there was a lot of mistrust of vaccines in black communities,” said Samantha Griffin, who owns a doula service that primarily serves families of color in the Washington, D.C., area.

But there’s more to it, he and others added.

Racial disparities in maternal mortality are “one of the greatest public health challenges,” the expert says.


The United States has a higher maternal mortality rate than any other developed country. Especially among women of color. In 2021, the maternal mortality rate for black women was nearly three times higher than for white women. And the maternity rate for Hispanic American women rose 54 percent this year compared to 2020, surpassing the death rate for white mothers.

The head of a Harvard task force studying the issue told CBS News’ “Face the Nation” last summer that determining the cause of racial disparities is “fundamentally one of the greatest public health challenges. Is.”

“We see this as the tip of the iceberg of poor health among women and poor health among black women,” Dr. Henning Tiemeier, director of Harvard’s Maternal Health Task Force, said in an interview, “from poverty to discrimination.” Referring to the factors said. Poor care of this group of women.”

More than a year into the pandemic, many doctors and nurses were feeling burned out and having less one-on-one time with patients.

Saturday marks 3 years since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic.


At the time, providers “needed to make snap judgments and maybe weren’t listening to their patients,” Griffin said. “Women were saying they felt something was wrong and that they weren’t being heard.”

Maynard, who is 41 and lives in Brooklyn, said he and his partner experienced it in 2019.

Shimoni Gibson, a healthy 30-year-old, was ready to give birth to her second child. The pregnancy was smooth until her contractions stopped progressing and she had a cesarean section.

The operation took more than expected, but in September their son Khari was born. A few days later, Shimoni began complaining of chest pains and shortness of breath, Maynard said. She said the doctors told her she just needed to rest and let her body rest from the pregnancy.

More than a week after giving birth, she became unwell and begged to go to the hospital. Then his heart stopped, and loved ones called for help. Maynard said the initial focus for paramedics and firefighters was whether Gibson was taking illegal drugs.

He was admitted to the hospital and died the next day from a blood clot in the lungs. Her son was 13 days old.

“She wasn’t being heard at all,” said Maynard, an artist who now does speaking engagements as a maternal health advocate.

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