Being pregnant is a joyous occasion that usually involves a lot of planning and preparation (name picking, preparing the baby’s room, etc.)
But under the surface, many women are also preparing for any complications that may arise during their pregnancy. Stillbirths, in particular, are very common and have even affected celebrities such as Chrissy Teigen. According to the CDC, Black women are two times more likely than Hispanic and white women to have stillbirths. The reason for such a health disparity is unclear, but new research points to one key factor that may be driving such a devasting loss for pregnant women.
COVID-19 is surging in U.S. states with low vaccination rates, and these places may also be seeing a higher-than-usual number of stillbirths linked to the virus.
While the number of stillbirths is still very low nationally, doctors in the Deep South have noticed increases in stillbirths, NBC News reports.
One of those states is Alabama. But the numbers are too low overall to draw definitive conclusions on whether the COVID cases led to a rise in stillbirths, Dr. Akila Subramaniam, an associate professor at the University of Alabama Birmingham’s Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine says.
“Everything that we’re seeing with stillbirths is truly anecdotal. We don’t have the numbers to confirm what we perceive that we’re seeing,” Subramaniam tells NBC News.
What is known is that in Mississippi, which already had the highest infant mortality rate in the United States, the state health department identified 72 stillbirths in women who have had COVID-19 during the pandemic.
That was twice the number of stillbirths the state would typically see in that time period, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, the state’s health officer, during a news conference notes.
“That’s quite a number of tragedies that sadly would be preventable,” Dobbs says.
About 39% of people in Mississippi are vaccinated, among the lowest vaccination rates in the nation. Most of the women in the stillbirth cases had