DPHSS: Increased Rate of Maternal Deaths is Due to Other Reasons


The rate at which women die from complications at birth rose over the course of the pandemic. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that COVID-19 was a contributing factor to those deaths.

Guam Public Health officials theorize that the island’s high rate of maternal deaths is due to other reasons

PNC’s Devin Eligio has the report…

Maternal deaths in the United States rose over the course of 2020 and 2021. While the rate of maternal deaths was already rising before the pandemic, a government report says COVID-19 contributed to the increasing number throughout the pandemic.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office made the report showing the correlation between the pandemic and maternal deaths. Carolyn Yocom and Alyssa Hundrup are both GAO health policy experts. They explained the trend in a GAO podcast.

Yocom said, “COVID exacerbated factors that have long contributed to disparities in maternal health outcomes.”

Disparities start with financial struggles, access to health care in rural areas, the ongoing shortage of OBGYNs to name a few.

Hundrup said, “This is problematic because the loss of this care is associated with increased distances that moms must travel, increases and out of hospital births, and that in turn gives to a higher rate of preterm births, as well as poor health outcomes for moms and their infants as well.”

Guam Public Health officials are starting to look at this trend locally. According to Dr. Anne Pobutsky, Public Health was recently awarded a research grant by the CDC to find the reason behind Guam’s maternal deaths.

Dr. Pobutsky said, “If we look at the trends, it’s much higher than the U.S. and so is our fetal mortality rate.”

While the reasons for Guam’s high maternal death rate aren’t completely clear, Dr. Pobutsky says it could be any of the following reasons:

  • The shortage of primary care physicians
  • Poor health as a result of obesity and diabetes
  • Lack of access to healthcare

Interim Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert Leon Guerrero reasons that a factor in these maternal deaths is that pregnant women simply aren’t coming in for prenatal care.

Dr. Leon Guerrero said, “People do not seek care for when they’re pregnant.”

He added, “I think the combination of no prenatal care or very little pre-natal care plays a role.”

The CDC finds that more than 80% of maternal deaths were preventable. With this grant they hope to end preventable maternal mortality in eight states and Guam.

Reporting for the Pacific News Center
I’m Devin Eligio

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