COVID-19 drove a dramatic increase in the number of women who died from pregnancy or childbirth complications in the U.S. last year, a crisis that has disproportionately claimed Black and Hispanic women as victims, according to a government report released Wednesday.
The report lays out grim trends across the country for expectant mothers and their newborn babies.
It finds that pregnancy-related deaths have spiked nearly 80% since 2018, with COVID-19 being a factor in a quarter of the 1,178 deaths reported last year. The percentage of preterm and low birthweight babies also went up last year, after holding steady for years. More pregnant or postpartum women are also reporting symptoms of depression.
“We were already in the middle of a crisis with maternal mortality in our country,” said Karen Tabb Dina, a maternal health researcher at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “This really shows that COVID-19 has exacerbated that crisis to rates that we, as a country, are not able to handle.”
The nonpartisan U.S. Government Accountability Office, which authored the report, analyzed pregnancy-related deaths after Congress mandated that it review maternal health outcomes in the 2020 coronavirus relief bill.