Pregnancy-related deaths among U.S. mothers spiked during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic according to information released in a government report on Wednesday (February 23) via NBC News.
The National Center for Health Statistics report shows a rate of 24 deaths per 100,000 births, which is equal to 861 total deaths, in cases in which mothers died during pregnancy, childbirth or the year after giving birth in 2020.
The previous rate in 2019 was 20 deaths per 100,000 births.
The numbers continued to reflect a decades-long trend that disproportionately affects Black people with 55 maternal deaths per 100,000 births, which was nearly triple the rate of White mothers.
The report didn't include reasons for the trend and researchers haven't yet fully determined how COVID-19, which has increased risks for severe illness in pregnancy, may have contributed to the deaths.
It's also possible that coronavirus had an indirect effect as many individuals delayed medical care in fear of catching COVID and virus surges strained the U.S. health care system, which could have led to the spike in pregnancy-related deaths, according to Eugene Declerq, a professor and maternal death researcher at Boston University School of Public Health.
Declerq called the high rates "terrible news" and acknowledged that the U.S. continues to have more cases of maternal mortality than numerous other developed countries.