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Study Found Pregnancy-Related Deaths Spiked for Second Consecutive Year During COVID-19

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A new study published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology shows that US maternal mortality rose more rapidly in 2021 than in 2020 and nearly doubled from pre-pandemic rates in 2019.  It also found American Indian / Alaska Native people shouldered the largest increase in pregnancy-related deaths.

The new study found that pregnancy-related deaths ratios rose to 45.5 deaths per 100,000 live births overall in 2021—and as high as 56.9 deaths per 100,000 live births during the third quarter of 2021—compared to 36.7 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2020, and 30.3 deaths per 100,000 live births pre-COVID. Notably, the study found that the largest relative increases in pregnancy-related deaths between 2020 and 2021 were among Hispanic people (at 34 percent) and especially American Indian/Alaska Native (AIAN) people (at 104 percent).

For the analysis, researchers used national birth and mortality data from January 2019 to March 2020 (pre-pandemic) compared to April 2020-December 2021 (during the pandemic). They estimated pregnancy-related mortality increases per quarter-year for deaths that occurred during pregnancy or within one year after the end of a pregnancy, and compared these rates to mortality rates among people ages 15 to 44 years old, for which COVID-19 was listed as a contributing cause of death.

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