TUESDAY, April 11, 2023 (HealthDay News) — Pregnancy-related mortality increased more rapidly in 2021 than in 2020, according to a study published online March 16 in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Marie E. Thoma, Ph.D., from the University of Maryland in College Park, and Eugene R. Declercq, Ph.D., from Boston University, assessed national pregnancy-related mortality ratios before (January 2019 to March 2020) and during (April 2020 to December 2020 and 2021) the COVID-19 pandemic overall, by race and ethnicity, and by rural-urban classifications using vital records data.

The researchers found that pregnancy-related mortality was significantly higher in 2021 (45.5 per 100,000 live births) versus during the pandemic in 2020 (36.7 per 100,000 live births) and before the pandemic (29.0 per 100,000 live births). Across all race and ethnicity and rural-urban residence categories, pregnancy-related mortality ratios increased in 2021. The largest increase was seen among American Indian/Alaska Native people (pregnancy-related mortality ratio, 160.8 versus 79.0 per 100,000 live births in April to December 2020; 104 percent relative change). When comparing 2021 to April to December 2020, medium-small metropolitan (52.4 versus 37.7 per 100,000 live births; 39.0 percent relative change) and rural (56.2 versus 46.5 per 100,000 live births; 21.0 percent relative change) areas had a larger increase compared with large urban areas (39.1 versus 33.7 per 100,000 live births; 15.9 percent relative change).

“Pregnancy-related mortality ratios increased more rapidly in 2021 than in 2020, consistent with rising rates of COVID-19-associated mortality among women of reproductive age,” the authors write.

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