Higher risk of maternal mortality during the pandemic

Thursday, April 1

The number of stillborn babies and women who have died during pregnancy increased by nearly a third during the pandemic, a review of 40 studies that covered 17 countries has found.

Many of the deaths were avoidable and likely caused by a lack of access to medical care, according to the authors of the study, which was published in the medical journal The Lancet.

The findings, however horrifying, shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Public health experts have warned about the pandemic having a disproportionate impact on women and their health from the outset. They knew the risk because this has happened before — previous epidemics of Ebola and Zika caused major setbacks for women and girls in the regions most affected by the outbreaks. Studies have shown that the number of stillbirths and maternal deaths increased in some countries hit by Ebola, because women were unable to access the appropriate services.

In the review, researchers from St. George’s, University of London said hospitals were overburdened with coronavirus patients, and some women may have been reluctant to go to the doctor, concerned they’d be exposed to Covid-19.

The study also found a nearly sixfold increase in ectopic pregnancies — when the fertilized egg grows outside a woman’s uterus, the review found. Untreated, ectopic pregnancies can cause life-threatening bleeding.

The higher risk of maternal mortality is just one of the many ways the pandemic has affected women.

The World Economic Forum said this week that the global gender gap has widened because of Covid-19 and that it will now take 36 years longer — 136 years in total — to close it.

Studies and surveys have shown that women were more likely to skip health care services, more likely to lose their jobs, more likely to suffer domestic violence and more likely to face financial hardship as a result of the pandemic.

Ivana Kottasová / CNN

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