02 Nov Drugs, Alcohol and Homicides Account for Many Deaths in Pregnant Women
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Jeffrey Howard, PhD
Department of Public Health
College for Health, Community and Policy
University of Texas at San Antonio
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?
Response: Drug and alcohol related mortality has been on the rise in the US for the past decade, which has drawn a lot of focus from researchers. At the same time maternal mortality, deaths caused by pregnancy complications, is recognized to be higher in the US than in other developed nations.
Very little has been reported about deaths among pregnant and recently pregnant women that are not caused by pregnancy complications, so my collaborators and I wanted to explore this. We did not anticipate that drug and alcohol deaths and homicides would account for so many deaths among pregnant and recently pregnant women.
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?
The main findings are that
(1) Mortality rates from all-causes have increased significantly from 2015-2019 for pregnant and recently pregnant women,
(2) Pregnancy complications accounted for only about half of the deaths of pregnant and recently pregnant women in 2019, and
(3) While pregnancy-related deaths did not increase from 2015-2019, drug and alcohol related deaths, and to a lesser extent homicides, did increase from 2015-2019.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: The fact that half of the deaths among pregnant and recently pregnant women in 2019 were from causes other than pregnancy-related suggests that there are much broader societal issues that are impacting maternal health, which will require a multifaceted policy and intervention approach to address.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?
Response: Future research should continue to examine all causes of death for pregnant and recently pregnant women, but should also include research to understand the psychosocial and socioeconomic factors that are contributing to deaths from alcohol, drugs and homicide.
MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Response: The current rates of mortality among pregnant and recently pregnant women are unacceptably high. Policymakers should be considering programs that address some of the underlying issues, including access to and delivery of healthcare, mental health issues, drug and alcohol abuse, and violence.
Howard JT, Sparks CS, Santos-Lozada AR, Olowolaju SA, Janak JC, Howard KJ. Trends in Mortality Among Pregnant and Recently Pregnant Women in the US, 2015-2019. JAMA. 2021;326(16):1631–1633. doi:10.1001/jama.2021.13971
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