Despite Decrease, Doctors Remain Concerned About Pregnancy-Related Deaths

By iMedix
Updated 2024-05-07 09:24:39 | Published 2024-05-07 09:21:58
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Pregnancy-Related Deaths

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported a decline in pregnancy-related deaths to levels seen before the pandemic, reversing a sharp increase in 2021. In 2022, 817 U.S. women died during pregnancy or shortly after childbirth, a significant drop from 1,205 the previous year.

Dr. Veronica Gillispie-Bell, an OB-GYN from Ochsner Medical Center in Kenner, Louisiana, noted that the high rate in 2021 was influenced by pandemic-related disruptions in healthcare access and increased reluctance to seek medical care. The maternal mortality rate in 2022 was 22.3 deaths per 100,000 live births, down from 32.9 per 100,000 in 2021, indicating a return to pre-pandemic figures.

However, disparities persist. Black women's maternal mortality rate remains disproportionately high at 49.5 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2022, though this is an improvement from 69.9 in 2021.

Dr. Warner Huh, who heads the obstetrics and gynecology department at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, emphasized the need for targeted prevention strategies to further reduce these deaths, particularly among Black women and other women of color.

The accuracy of the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics data, derived from death certificates, has been historically questioned due to medical coding issues. Efforts to improve this began in 2003 with a recommendation for a standardized checkbox on death certificates to indicate if the deceased was pregnant or had recently been pregnant, which wasn't uniformly implemented until 2017.

Recent criticisms suggest that the checkbox might overestimate maternal mortality rates by failing to distinguish whether deaths were directly related to pregnancy. However, Gillispie-Bell defends the current method, citing the significant role of mental health conditions, including substance use disorders, in maternal deaths.

Despite improvements, the figures are still alarmingly high, and as Dr. Gillispie-Bell puts it, “As long as mothers are dying, we still have work to do,” emphasizing the ongoing need for enhanced safety measures and awareness in pregnancy-related health care.

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