Maternal deaths rose higher in 2020: CDC report

The number of pregnancy-related deaths in the U.S. rose in 2020, the first year of the pandemic, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

The report finds there were 861 maternal deaths in 2020, up from 754 in 2019 and 658 in 2018. That translated to 23.8 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2020, up from 20.1 in 2019.  

Racial disparities are also wide. The maternal mortality rate for Black women was about three times higher than it was for white women, at 55.3 deaths per 100,000 births compared to 19.1 deaths per 100,000 births.  

“Rates for non-Hispanic Black women were significantly higher than rates for non-Hispanic White and Hispanic women,” the report states. “The increases from 2019 to 2020 for non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic women were significant.”

The report does not delve into the role the pandemic might have played in the increase in maternal deaths, but it is possible that people delaying care and trips to the hospital could have played a role.

“The pandemic has uncovered the disparities in access to care, healthcare quality and delivery,” Janelle Bolden, an OB-GYN at Northwestern University, told The Associated Press. “It has also laid bare the lack of support for public health and social agencies that many people rely on for basic needs.” 

Lawmakers have been pushing to address maternal deaths. For example, the American Rescue Plan Act, signed by President Biden last year, allows states to extend Medicaid coverage for a full year postpartum, up from 60 days.  

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