Maternal death rates soared in U.S. during pandemic

CDC data shows that the number of women dying while pregnant or shortly afterward rose sharply in 2021. That year, 1,205 U.S. women died of maternal causes compared with 861 in 2020 and 754 in 2019. The rate among black women is more than twice that of white women.

The report does not speculate on causes, and the rate has been rising for years. The Covid pandemic, though, looms large in experts' conclusions, along with systemic racism and poor access to healthcare in general.

"What happened in 2020 and 2021 compared with 2019 is Covid," [Dr. Elizabeth] Cherot said. "This is sort of my reflection on this time period, Covid-19 and pregnancy. Women were at increased risk for morbidity and mortality from Covid. And that actually has been well-proven in some studies, showing increased risks of death, but also being ventilated in the intensive care unit, preeclampsia and blood clots, all of those things increasing a risk of morbidity and mortality."

Update:T he CDC's method for categorizing maternal deaths has reportedly broadened over time and created a false impression of a worsening situation.