‘It’s statistically significant:’ UAB expert on new CDC maternal mortality report

Published: Mar. 17, 2023 at 9:45 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a new report Thursday showing maternal deaths increased across the country in 2021.

In the study, a maternal death is defined by the World Health Organization as “the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the duration and the site of the pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management, but not from accidental or incidental causes.”

There was a nearly 40% increase in deaths between 2020 and 2021 and a UAB professor is calling the number significant.

“What we’ve seen is an increase, regardless of who you are or what subpopulation you’re in, what group of people, you’re going to see an increase in maternal mortality,” said Dr. Martha Wingate.

The CDC’s recent study shows 1,205 mothers died in 2021, an increase from 2020′s 861 and 2019′s 754.

“When you talk about it from a data perspective, it’s statistically significant so there’s been a real change,” said Dr. Wingate. She’s on the state Maternal Mortality Review Committee.

She says one thing that really stood out to her was the increased risk for women of color. The CDC says the maternal mortality rate for black women is 69.9 deaths per 100,000 live births, 2.6 times the rate of white women which is 26.6 deaths.

Dr. Wingate says the reasons for the deaths are all over the board, including chronic conditions, substance abuse disorder, even mental health struggles.

“Some could be related to COVID,” she added. “Some of it could be related to access to care, certainly that’s the case in Alabama -- that there’s a strain on the medical system.”

Alabama is one of the worst states when it comes to maternal mortality, says Dr. Wingate. She adds that advocating for yourself should be priority.

“If something doesn’t feel right, say it,” she explained. “Make sure that you know that there are resources and ask questions. I think that’s really the key.”

Dr. Wingate says they are building a maternal health task force right now. The goal is to bring together state health leaders to save lives and find concrete answers to the growing problem.

If you’re a mother or expecting mother searching for resources, she recommends visiting this website: https://www.alpqc.org/

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