U.S. maternal death rate is increasing at an alarming rate, shows study

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In a concerning trend, the rate at which moms are dying in the U.S. is climbing fast, a new report from Northwestern Medicine reveals.

The increase in moms passing away from pregnancy-related causes is happening across all age groups, challenging the common belief that the rise is mainly due to more women having babies later in life.

The study, which looked at data from 2014 to 2021, found the biggest jumps in death rates were among women aged 25 to 34.

This suggests that the problem isn’t just about age.

“We thought older age at pregnancy might be a big reason for more maternal deaths, but our findings show we need to dig deeper to understand what’s really going on, especially with younger moms under 35,” explained Dr. Sadiya Khan, who led the research.

During the study period, the average age of moms in the U.S. went up slightly, from 28.3 to 29.4 years.

Despite this small change in age, the number of moms dying nearly doubled, with the most significant increase happening between 2019 and 2021.

Published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, this study is the first to point out that age alone doesn’t explain the rising maternal mortality rates. What’s causing these deaths, then?

The researchers suggest that heart-related conditions, including high blood pressure, heart failure, and strokes, play a big role in the worsening situation.

“Understanding the causes of these deaths is crucial because most of them can be prevented,” Khan emphasized. She calls for better programs and systems to review and tackle the root causes of these health crises across the country.

The study also took steps to ensure accurate tracking of pregnancy-related deaths by focusing on data from states that had adopted a specific checkbox on death certificates for pregnancy status by 2014. This approach aimed to address concerns about whether the observed increase in deaths was real or due to changes in data collection methods.

While this research sheds light on a growing public health issue, it didn’t delve into the impact of racial disparities. Black women, for instance, are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. Future studies are expected to explore these differences more closely.

Funded in part by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the study underscores a critical need for action to reverse the alarming trend of rising maternal deaths in the U.S.