As we continue to work to improve maternal health outcomes in the new year, it’s important to know where we—and the industry—have been. Though we wrestled with the worsening maternal health crisis, especially its effects on Black women, there were new discoveries and initiatives that gave us hope. Here’s a roundup of the top maternal health news of 2023.
According to CDC data released in March, in 2021, maternal mortality soared to the highest rate since 1965. The spike was likely due to Covid. And while preliminary CDC data reports that maternal death rates are down from 2021, unfortunately infant mortality rates rose for the first time in 20 years.
Black and Native people continue to have the worst pregnancy outcomes. In February, The New York Times reported on new data from California that showed that childbirth is deadlier for Black families even if they’re wealthy. The study analyzed 2 million births and found that wealth does not protect Black families from maternal and infant mortality—unlike for families of all other races and ethnicities, where the wealthiest mothers and babies are the least likely to die in the first year postpartum.
In May, the tragic death of U.S. Olympian Tori Bowie brought Black maternal mortality to the forefront of the national discourse. Bowie died from complications of childbirth, eclampsia and respiratory distress. Eclampsia is a condition that occurs when pregnant people experience seizures as a result of hypertension, or high blood pressure. Hypertensive disorders of pregnancy are the leading cause of death for Black pregnant women. In February, U.S. Preventative Services officially recommended frequent blood pressure testing during pregnancy to reduce the prevalence of hypertensive disorders.
However, new research has the potential to affect maternal health for the better. In August, the oral antidepressant Zuranolone was approved by the FDA for treatment of peripartum depression. Zuranolone could be a game-changer, but until the drug has been tested on a wider population, experts still urge caution.
In December, researchers identified the cause of severe morning sickness, also known as hyperemesis gravidarum. Hyperemesis gravidarum is the leading reason for hospitalization in early pregnancy, and causes persistent nausea and vomiting that result in dehydration and weight loss. Though there is not yet a drug to treat severe morning sickness, knowing what causes HG paves the way for better treatment and even prevention of the condition.
As the year came to a close, Vice President Kamala Harris announced a new plan to reduce maternal mortality, and held the first White House Maternal Health Day of Action. The administration is encouraging states to extend postpartum coverage, and tracking the effect of extended coverage on pregnancy outcomes.
At Delfina, we are relentlessly working to create a solution that will transform pregnancy care. And we’re already making a difference—read about our 2023 accomplishments here. Improving maternal health in the U.S. is our first priority, in 2024 and always.
If you want to learn more about how our AI-optimized pregnancy care platform can support you or your patients, don’t hesitate to reach out.