The overall maternal death rate in the U.S. increased by 14%
Maternal deaths increased in the United States in 2020 during the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics as reported by The New York Times.
“Our maternal morbidity and mortality is the highest in the developed world, and the trend is continuing despite our awareness of it, despite our maternal-mortality review committees, despite attention in the press,” Kara Zivin, a professor of psychiatry, obstetrics, and gynecology at the University of Michigan, said in an interview with The New York Times. “Whatever we’re doing is clearly not enough to address either the overall rate or the disparities.”
Why did maternal deaths increase?
Maternal deaths are defined as any death that occurs during a woman’s pregnancy or six weeks after giving birth to a child. In 2020, maternal deaths increased by 14 percent from 754 deaths in 2019 to 861 deaths in 2020, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
Such statistics need to be studied in greater detail, but according to medical experts interviewed by the National Center for Health Statistics, “some of the deaths were most likely related to the coronavirus pandemic,” The New York Times reported.
This is because “pregnancy puts women at risk for more severe disease if they are infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes Covid, and vaccines were not available for them in 2020,” according to The New York Times.
Many maternal deaths are caused by substandard medical care
However, while the pandemic was likely a contributing factor in 2020, medical literature makes it clear that many preventable maternal deaths are caused by substandard medical care. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has studied the causes of maternal deaths for decades. Recently, ACOG determined that 40 to 50% of maternal deaths are preventable and 60 to 70% of those preventable deaths were due to substandard medical care. ACOG found that postpartum hemorrhage, blood clots, blood pressure disorders, and cardiovascular conditions were the leading causes of preventable maternal deaths.
Regardless of the circumstances, medical providers need to meet standards of care and do everything in their power to prevent maternal death.
Which women were affected?
Maternal deaths have historically affected certain women more than others. The same was true in 2020 during the first year of the pandemic. In particular, Black women and Hispanic women experienced much higher maternal death rates compared to the population as a whole.
In 2020, one-third of all maternal deaths involved Black women, even though Black people make up 13 percent of the United States’ population. As a result, the maternal death rate for Black women was three times higher than the death rate for white women, The New York Times reported.
As for Hispanic women, the maternal death rate increased “among all pregnant women older than 24, but particularly in those 40 and over, whose mortality rate was nearly eight times that of women younger than 25,” The New York Times reported.
Other possible factors
The coronavirus pandemic might not have been the only reason why maternal deaths increased in 2020. Health officials said that maternal deaths may have increased in 2020 due to increased “stress, mental health problems and substance abuse” during the pandemic, according to Dr. Mary D’Alton, chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Irving Medical Center.
In addition, D’Alton and other health experts noted that maternal death rates may have increased due to doctors and other healthcare providers not taking pregnant women’s concerns seriously.
“Pregnant women’s complaints are often dismissed, and that is probably much more significant for Black and brown women,” D’Alton said in an interview with The New York Times.
In short, while the circumstances of 2020 were unique, the role of medical negligence in maternal deaths remains unacceptably high — and negligent providers need to be held accountable.
How can a wrongful death lawyer help?
Maternal deaths can be complicated legal cases. This is especially true if medical negligence played a role in the death of a loved one. When this happens, doctors, hospitals, and other medical institutions often refuse to admit wrongdoing. Instead, they hire a team of attorneys to defend their actions and dispute claims.
We know what’s at stake at The Lancione Law Firm. That’s because Ohio birth injury lawyer John A. Lancione has years of experience handling such complex legal cases. Our law firm has a long history of successfully obtaining settlements and verdicts for families in legal cases involving medical negligence.
Learn more about your legal options. Contact our law firm and schedule a free consultation with Cleveland birth injury attorney John A. Lancione. He can review the details of your case and explain different possible legal strategies available to you. Our office is located in Rocky River, Ohio, and we handle birth injury cases nationwide.