Of the 155 million births in the United States between 1979 and 2018, more than 3,200 mothers died from causes related to high blood pressure – 15 times more in that period. The risk was particularly high among black women, according to study.
“Women need good and timely initiation of prenatal care during pregnancy, but importantly, prenatal care to diagnose and treat high blood pressure before pregnancy is very important,” said lead author Cande Ananth, head of epidemiology and biostatistics at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, NJ
While maternal mortality rates due to high blood pressure during pregnancy (preeclampsia) has fallen in the United States over the past four decades, the death rate from chronic high blood pressure has increased significantly – by an average of about 9% per year, according to the study.
“In these unfavorable trends, there is also a worrying racial difference …, where black women are exposed to a significantly and disproportionately increased risk of white women,” he said. “The study emphasizes the need to focus on improvements in areas such as advanced maternal age, obesity and racial inequalities in access to care. “
About a third of maternal deaths occur before childbirth; one third on the day of delivery or within one week; and the third week to a year after delivery, according to the study.
They estimated that 75% of maternal deaths could be prevented.
Notably, those associated with high blood pressure increased with age and were highest among women between 45 and 49 years of age. Mortality also increases with obesity.
Among black women, the risk was even higher.
Compared to white women, they had a three to four times higher risk of death from blood pressure-related causes, the study found. And, said Ananth, that racial inequality has been going on for 40 years.