The number of American women who died while giving birth spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic — even as the overall birth rate decreased, a new study finds.
Researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, in Boston, Massachusetts, found that maternal mortality increased 68 percent during the first 14 months of the pandemic. The risk of developing a hyperintense disorder — which causes lesions to erupt on the brain — or a hemorrhage were also increased.
While an exact cause of this could not be determined from the raw data, experts speculate that disruptions to natal care caused by the pandemic likely led to many pregnancy issues developing that would not have otherwise. Women were also less likely to seek care when issues arose as well, making it more likely the issues would develop further.
Disruptions to health care and every day life during the COVID-19 pandemic have been tied to many negative health trends. Fear of the pandemic and social isolation allowed many medical situations that could have been resolved go untreated, leading to more significant complications and even deaths in many cases.
A woman was 68% more likely to die during child birth during the first 14 months of the COVID-19 pandemic than in the 14 months directly proceeding the outbreak of the virus. Researchers blame disruptions to care caused by the virus for the increase
‘We found a small but statistically significant increase in maternal death during hospitalization for childbirth and pregnancy-related complications during the pandemic, which is alarming,’ Dr Rose Molina, first author of the study and an OBGYN at Beth Israel, said in a statement.
‘Our work demonstrates how the overall disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic impact the health of pregnant people.’
Researchers, who published their findings Friday in JAMA Network Open, gathered data from 1.6 million pregnant women who gave birth across 463 hospitals.
Half of the women gave birth in the 14 months directly preceding March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic began in the United States. The other half in the 14 months directly after.
Less births were given after the pandemic started than before, with a reduction of around five percent logged by researchers.
They found that in the months before the pandemic, 5.17 per every 100,000 women who gave birth died.
This figure jumped 68 percent to 8.69 in the time directly after the virus took over the country.
Because the study was performed by just gathering raw data, there is no concrete explanation as yo why this occurred.
Like many other bad medical trends that erupted during the first year of the pandemic researchers believe lockdowns and disruptions in day-to-day life caused by the virus could be at fault.
‘While hospital-based obstetric care remained an essential service during the COVID-19 pandemic, outpatient prenatal care experienced substantial disruptions, and much routine prenatal care was done virtually,’ Molina said.
‘It is possible that these disruptions and limitations in monitoring via telehealth may have contributed to the slight worsening of pregnancy-related hypertension.
‘Additionally, increased rates of hypertensive disorders may be due to heightened stress provoked by the pandemic.’
Their research also found that women were spending less time in the hospital after giving birth — likely an effort to both clear hospital beds for Covid patients and to prevent the woman from catching the virus.
This especially affected women who gave birth via C-section. Less time being monitored by a physician can put a woman more at risk of post-partum complications.
‘While obstetric operations mobilized to adapt to rapidly changing clinical guidance and maintain essential services, the experience of care was dramatically different – especially with respect to restrictive visitation policies which limited social support during a particularly anxiety-provoking hospitalization,’ Molina explained.
The jump in maternal mortality is not the only negative health trend from 2020 that was tied to the pandemic.
America experienced a surge in drug overdose deaths during 2020 of the pandemic, eclipsing 100,000 in a single 12-month period for the first time ever.