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Maternal Mortality on the Rise

Written by Daniel B. Brill

Hands holding baby feet

It goes without saying that maternal death is one of the most tragic events that can occur.  Unfortunately, the rate of maternal mortality is on the rise in the U.S.  A maternal death is defined by the World Health Organization as “the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the duration and the site of the pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management, but not from accidental or incidental cause.”

When it comes to the maternal mortality rates worldwide, it may be surprising to learn that the U.S. maternal mortality rate is 57th out of 186 nations.  Our rate of maternal deaths is in the same neighborhood as countries like Turkey, Romania, and Ukraine.  The 2018 U.S. maternal mortality rate of 17.4 deaths for every 100,000 live births was more than double the recent rates of a majority of other developed countries studied.

Common Causes of Maternal Deaths

 Women often die due to complications during or after their pregnancy. Most of these complications develop during pregnancy and are treatable – but they are not diagnosed in time. Other complications can exist before pregnancy and then are worsened during pregnancy, especially if they are not managed as part of the woman’s standard prenatal care. Some of the most common causes of maternal death include:

  • Severe bleeding after childbirth
  • Infections after childbirth
  • High blood pressure during pregnancy – including complications from pre-eclampsia and eclampsia
  • Complications from delivery

By simply attending pregnant women during their prenatal care as well as immediately after childbirth, these deaths can be prevented.

Increased Maternal Mortality

The rate of maternal mortality in the U.S. increased by nearly 20% from 2019 to 2020.  According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), the maternal death rate increased from 20.1 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2019 to 23.8 deaths per 100,000 in 2020, or by 18%.  The rate has increased by nearly 37% since 2018.

The rise was driven by a huge spike in the rates for Hispanic and Black women.  Black women had the highest maternal mortality rate, at 55.3 deaths for every 100,000 live births, nearly triple the rate among white women.  Preeclampsia is leading cause of maternal death black women.

Covid Related?

Because maternal deaths were already on the rise in 2019, it is hard to know how much the recent surge was due to Covid-19.  Even so, the steep increase in 2020 reflects some connection either directly or indirectly with health risks that the pandemic has posed for pregnant women.

According to the CDC, pregnant women are more likely to die or become seriously ill due to Covid-19 compared to those who are not pregnant.  The CDC also found that pregnant women who contracted Covid-19 during pregnancy had higher mortality rates than those who did not.

The disruption of maternity care during the pandemic may also be a factor.  Prenatal visits have been cancelled or gone to telehealth visits.  Patients are waiting longer to go to the hospital when they think they are in labor.  Home births have risen sharply.  Hospitals have been overworked and understaffed due to the pandemic.  Maternity wards have been closed during the pandemic due to lack of staffing, including many in Connecticut.

While some causes of maternal deaths may be the unavoidable result of the pandemic, many deaths are still preventable.  After all, physicians have the technology and medications at their disposal to diagnose and treat most of the causes of maternal deaths.

Discuss Wrongful Death Claims with a Compassionate Attorney

If you believe that your loved one died during pregnancy due to preventable causes, contact our team for qualified, aggressive, and experienced representation in your case. For more information, or to schedule a free consultation with a Connecticut wrongful death lawyer, reach out today.