By Darren Lyn
HOUSTON, United States (AA) - The death rate for pregnant women in the United States rose sharply in 2021, according to new numbers released Thursday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC report from the National Center for Health Statistics showed that the number of women who died of maternal causes during pregnancy or childbirth rose nearly 40% from 2020 to 2021.
The maternal death rate in 2021 was 32.9 deaths per 100,000 live births compared with a rate of 23.8 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2020.
That is the sharpest increase in the maternal mortality rate over the the past four years: 658 deaths in 2018, 754 deaths in 2019, 861 deaths in 2020 and 1,205 deaths in 2021.
Medical experts said COVID-19 contributed to the "dramatic" increase in maternal deaths.
“What happened in 2020 and 2021 compared with 2019 is Covid,” said Dr. Elizabeth Cherot, chief medical and health officer for the infant and maternal health nonprofit March of Dimes, in an interview with CNN.
"Women were at increased risk for morbidity and mortality from Covid," Cherot conitnued. "And that actually has been well-proven in some studies, showing increased risks of death, but also being ventilated in the intensive care unit, preeclampsia and blood clots, all of those things increasing a risk of morbidity and mortality.”
The report noted that the maternal mortality rate among Black women was 69.9 deaths per 100,000 live births, more than two-and-a-half times the rate for white women at 26.6 deaths per 100,000 live births.
The numbers also indicated that the maternal death rate increased with the mother's age.
For women aged 40 and older, the mortality rate (138.5 deaths per 100,000 live births) was nearly seven times higher than the rate for women under 25 (20.4 deaths per 100,000 live births).
According to medical experts, the death rate in the US has been steadily climbing over the past three decades.
The World Health Organization in a report last year attributed "a high rate of cesarean sections, inadequate prenatal care, and elevated rates of chronic illnesses like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease" as factors contributing to the increased rate.
"It’s really disappointing to see that the trend is not going in the right direction but, at some level, is going in the worst direction and at a little bit of a faster rate,” said Dr. Elizabeth Langen, a high-risk maternal-fetal medicine physician at the University of Michigan Health Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital, in an interview with CNN.
“In the health care system, we need to accept ultimate responsibility for the women who die in our care," added Langen.