(Loops News) – Alack of access to timely care and disruptions to prenatal services are to blame for an increase in maternal mortality in the Americas during the pandemic, with one in three pregnant women unable to access timely critical care, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director Carissa F. Etienne said.
With COVID-19 cases among pregnant women reaching more than 365,000 in the region over the past two years, and deaths surpassing 3,000, Dr Etienne said in a media briefing that “this is a tragedy, especially now that we have safe and effective vaccines.”
A pre-published PAHO study on maternal mortality across 8 countries showed that from 447 pregnant women that died between March 1, 2020, and November 29, 2021, 90 per cent were already experiencing life-threatening symptoms when admitted to hospital. Nearly 77 per cent delivered their babies prematurely and 60 per cent were born with low birth weight – an issue that can impact the health of a child for the rest of its life.
“We must prioritise women to ensure they are shielded from the worst of the pandemic,” Dr Etienne said. Pregnant women, in particular, are “among the most vulnerable to COVID-19, due to changes in their immune system which can put them at risk for severe disease,” she added, urging countries to urgently ramp up access to vaccines, ensure the continuation of health services that women depend on, and improve access to family planning services.
These are “life-saving services that should remain open now more than ever,” added the Director.