A vast majority of pregnancy-related deaths could have been prevented with proper care while a mother is expecting, and post-partum, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed Monday.
The agency reports that 84.2 percent of pregnancy-related deaths could have been prevented with better care. A large portion of these deaths are related to mental health struggles, with deaths by suicide or drug overdose making up 22.7 percent of deaths.
Other leading causes included hemorrhages, heart-related condition, infection and high blood pressure. Many of these cases could also be prevented with proper maternal care – which America is lacking in compared to many other peer developed nations.
Maternal mortality in America is an often overlooked issue that health officials have long warned about. A study published by The Commonwealth Fund found that the U.S. had the highest rate of any developed nation, with 17.4 deaths occurring for every 100,000 births.
‘The report paints a much clearer picture of pregnancy-related deaths in this country,’ Dr Wanda Barfield, director of CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health, said in a statement.
‘The majority of pregnancy-related deaths were preventable, highlighting the need for quality improvement initiatives in states, hospitals, and communities that ensure all people who are pregnant or postpartum get the right care at the right time.’
Published Monday, the CDC report looked gathered maternal mortality data from 2017 to 2019. The data is from before the COVID-19 pandemic, which many experts fear made America’s maternal mortality issues worse.
Over the study period, 1,018 pregnancy-related deaths were recorded in the U.S.
A pregnancy-related death was counted as any death while expecting or in the one year following birth that could directly be tied back to the pregnancy.
Over the three year period, 22 percent of deaths occurred during pregnancy itself. One-in-four were either on the day of or within a week of birth. The remaining 53 percent occurred between one week and a year after delivery.
Mental health conditions were determined to be the leading cause of death, all of which are believed to be preventable. They include suicides and issues related to misuse of drugs.
In total, they make up 22.7 percent of pregnancy-related deaths suffered by women.
Depression and other mental health issues arising during pregnancy is a major issue for some women.
The change in hormones, the stressors of pregnancy along with the sudden changes to everyday life can be a lot for some to deal with.
This can combine with already existent mental health issues and other risk factors for depression that many women carry as well.
In some cases, women will turn to drugs to manage their symptoms, putting them at risk of an overdose, poisoning, or other causes of death.
Hemorrhaging is a common pregnancy related concern as well. It occurs when a blood vessel ruptures and causes internal bleeding.
Why exactly they are so common during pregnancy and delivery has not been figured out by experts, but they are experienced by around 25 percent of pregnant women.
Bleeding issues are the second leading cause of death among U.S. pregnant women, accounting for 13.7 percent.
Heart and coronary issues are the next leading cause, at 12.8 percent, followed by infection (9.2 percent of deaths), thrombotic embolisms (8.7 percent), cardiomyopathy (8.5 percent) and high blood pressure (6.5 percent).
The CDC and other medical experts analyzed these deaths to determine whether they could have been prevented with proper or precautionary medical care. They found that nearly all, 84 percent, were.
Maternal mortality is a uniquely American issue among developed nations, as the U.S.’s lack of available physicians and higher barriers to care leave some behind.
The Commonwealth Fund compared maternal mortality in the U.S. to ten peer nations.
America’s 17.4 deaths per 100,000 residents was double France, the second highest of developed nations included in the study, and ten-fold higher than the figure posted by New Zealand.