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Increasing US death rate tied to maternal mental health, study finds

The CDC says 80% of U.S. pregnancy-related deaths are preventable. New data found that maternal mental health issues are caused by barriers to care.
Increasing US death rate is tied to maternal mental, study finds
Posted at 1:45 PM, Feb 24, 2024

Health officials analyzing the increasing U.S. death rate have honed in on maternal mental illness as the leading cause of deaths related to pregnancies in the United States, according to new data published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry. 

The study found that the U.S. maternal mortality rate was at around two to threefold more than other counties considered to be high income. 

The data found that many schemes to try and fight or mitigate maternal mortality haven't included a mental health component tailored to that specific facet of the problem. 

Researchers found that a mother's own upbringing and childhood along with her in utero experience shapes the risk for mental disorders that might be exacerbated by various "exposures," in life, as the study authors put it. 

SEE MORE: 1 in 10 pregnant people with COVID develop long COVID within 6 months

The study looked at 30 recent reviews along with 15 historical references to gain more insights into various under-recognized aspects of how mental illness shapes maternal mortality. 

Limitations on access to a full spectrum of good reproductive care in the U.S. field of health have caused significant challenges that complicate pregnancies. In the study, authors wrote that historical literature on the subject has frequently found how during the perinatal period, this time is associated with a higher risk for what is called "new-onset" — or a relapse — of maternal psychiatric disorders. This means that woman are at an elevated risk of new psychiatric disorders while they are pregnant and after giving birth. 

Data shows that around 14.5% of pregnancies can cause a new episode of depression, and an additional 14.5% of pregnant people develop a new episode of depression in the first three months after giving birth. 

Health care experts warn that maternal morbidity and the mortality rate combine to constitute a real public health emergency, writing that mental health is fundamental to health. 

Data also found that mothers of racial and ethnic minority groups along with low-income people are increasingly likely to enter pregnancies with more stressors caused by systemic inequities. 

Data shows that over 80% of U.S. pregnancy-related deaths are preventable, according to the CDC.

The study was published along with contributing authors including Dr. Katherine Wisner of the Children's National Hospital in Washington, D.C. and the Research Committee of the Marcè of North America Society for Perinatal Mental Health.

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