Deaths of pregnant women have skyrocketed 40 percent during the pandemic as exposure to the virus exacerbated underlying medical conditions in moms-to-be.
Some 1,205 pregnant women died in 2021, up from 861 in 2020 and 754 in 2019, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It marked a six-decade high in maternity deaths in the US, with black women almost three times as likely to die as their white counterparts.
An earlier report from the Government Accountability Office indicates that at least 400 maternal deaths in 2021 listed Covid-19 infection as a contributing factor, accounting for most of the increase in previous years.
But experts add that overworked hospital staff and high levels of vaccination reluctance among pregnant women made the crisis worse.
Preliminary figures show that maternal deaths returned to normal levels in 2022, when there were around 733.
Experts say vaccine hesitancy among pregnant women, as a result of conflicting medical guidance, contributed to the rise in maternity deaths. In the photo, a pregnant woman receives the vaccine from her.
The data includes deaths of women who were pregnant or had been pregnant in the last 42 days before dying.
Doctors say that pregnancy leaves women more vulnerable to infectious diseases, since their heart, lungs and kidneys already have to work harder during pregnancy.
The infection can also damage the placenta, cause blood clots more easily, and may increase the risk of preeclampsia, a complication characterized by high blood pressure.
But the problem was made worse by the fact that many doctors and nurses were feeling stressed after being inundated with Covid patients during the pandemic, meaning they were spending less time in person with their patients.
“(Doctors) needed to make quick decisions and maybe they weren’t listening to their patients as much,” Samantha Griffin, owner of a doula service in Washington, DC, told the Associated Press.
“Women were saying they thought something was wrong and they weren’t being listened to.”
Stories of pregnant women dying in childbirth became rife during the lockdown.
And conflicting medical evidence left many too scared to get vaccinated for fear of complications.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) did not recommend vaccines for pregnant women until August 2021.
Vaccine hesitancy was particularly strong among the black community, which experts say partly explains why the death rate among black women rose so dramatically.
Amanda Perry died in August 2021 after contracting Covid-19 while she was pregnant. She planned to receive the vaccine after her birth.
Her husband Billy said at the time: “I wish we had talked more about getting vaccinated,” adding that “we weren’t anti-vaccination.”
Their son Nolan was born via emergency caesarean section and survived.
There were 69.9 deaths per 100,000 live births among black women in 2021, 2.6 times the rate for white women.
“At first, there was a lot of mistrust of the vaccine in black communities,” Griffin said.
Today, the CDC says that more than 70 percent of vaccinated women have received a covid shot, but only about 20 percent have received the necessary boosters.
“We definitely know that vaccination prevents severe disease and hospitalization and prevents poor maternal and infant outcomes,” said Dr. Dana Meaney-Delman, who works for the CDC. The New York Times.
‘We have to continue to emphasize that point.’
In August 2021, the widow of an unvaccinated pregnant Tennessee woman who died of the virus revealed that she “wished” she had talked to her wife about getting the vaccine.
Amanda Perry, 36, of Dickson County, Tennessee, had suffered multiple miscarriages in the past and feared the vaccine would trigger another.
They forced her to have an emergency C-section when she was 32 weeks pregnant. Her son Nolan survived.
At the time, her husband Billy told Newsweek: ‘I wish we had talked more about getting vaccinated.
We were not against it.
“We were not anti-vaccination. When you are pregnant what do you do? There is not a lot of research out there. She was terribly scared.
In June of the same year, 43-year-old Shanetta Wilson died after contracting the virus days after her baby shower.
She was admitted to the George Washington University Hospital, where she slipped into a coma.
Shanetta Wilson died in June 2021 after contracting the virus in the days after her baby shower.
Wilson was six months pregnant with their son at the time. Her niece said the virus ‘attacked’ her lungs and shut down her body
She was six months pregnant with their son Charles, who was born five days before she passed away.
Her niece Gwendolyn Wilson told WUSA9: “It was devastating to hear how quickly the virus had attacked her lungs, and everything started to shut down very quickly, and how she went into a coma.”