If you or someone you know is pregnant, you’re at high risk for early miscarriage, according to a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The study, led by the University of California, Berkeley, analyzed a nationwide birth registry to track maternal mortality and fetal loss during the second trimester of pregnancy.
The team found that among babies born in the United States during the first six weeks of pregnancy, one in six had a fetal death within three weeks of birth, and one in three had a maternal death within six weeks.
This equates to one in 10,000 live births.
The researchers also found that infants born to women with preexisting health conditions were more likely to be lost to labor and delivery in the second and third trimesters.
Maternal deaths in the first trimester, particularly in the early days of pregnancy and in women of color, were particularly common.
“The rates of maternal mortality were more prevalent among white women, black women, and women with pre-existing medical conditions,” the researchers wrote in the study.
“These results indicate that the current practice of screening for preexisted health conditions during pregnancy is a barrier to maternal mortality,” they continued.
“While the impact of this screening practice on maternal mortality is well known, we report here that maternal mortality remains an issue for women of all races and ethnicities in the U.S.”
This study is important because it confirms that women of any race, color, or ethnicity can have low birthweight and low birth outcomes.
This finding, combined with other research showing that low birth weight and low fetal mortality are linked to preterm birth and low maternal mortality, suggests that we need to address these issues, and prevent maternal mortality during pregnancy, said study author and professor of obstetrology and gynecology at UC Berkeley Dr. Sarah A. Fagundes.
In the study, the researchers found that maternal death rates increased sharply for mothers of all racial/ethnic groups between the ages of 20 and 29, even when adjusted for other factors.
For African Americans, the increase was three times higher, and for Native Americans, it was four times higher.
These results show that this practice of pregnancy screening during pregnancy and maternal mortality prevention are both effective at reducing the risks associated with these outcomes, the authors wrote.
This new research confirms that a systematic approach to prenatal screening and maternal death prevention is necessary to improve maternal outcomes and the health of the women who bear them, said Fagunes.
“It is critical to address the health disparities that disproportionately impact women of Color and Native Americans,” Faguntes said.
“This study shows that a coordinated approach to screening and pregnancy prevention will have a positive impact on maternal and infant health in the years ahead.”
The researchers analyzed the birth registry data from the United Nation’s Department of Health, Education, and Population Services.
The data included data on the mothers’ health status, pregnancy, birth weight, birth length, and other factors, as well as maternal deaths and fetal losses.
“We found that the risk of maternal death and fetal death in the earliest days of gestation and in the third trimester was highest for women from high-income countries, including the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, and France,” the authors said.
The authors found that high-risk pregnancies are more likely for fetal loss in the newborn period.
“This may be a result of a number of factors, including preexistent health conditions and poor obstetric care during pregnancy,” the study authors wrote, adding that “preexisting medical conditions during the pregnancy may affect fetal survival.”
In addition to highlighting the importance of prenatal screening, the findings also show that the data show that many women with low birth weights and low fetuses have preexistential conditions, such as gestational diabetes or preexistence hypertension, and that the rate of preexistance hypertension was higher for Black women and Native American women.
The findings also suggest that the screening practices that have been commonly used in the past to reduce maternal mortality in the US are not sufficient.
“In many countries, such screening practices have been associated with higher rates of fetal death, fetal loss, and maternal deaths, as they provide additional screening, such that preexisis, maternal morbidity, and fetal mortality have been increased,” the paper said.
Researchers hope to improve the screening procedures that have historically been used, such to check the gestational age of the mother, the gestations of the fetus, and to examine the fetal condition of the woman during the early stages of pregnancy,” Faggundes said, “and the screening efforts that have already been implemented in the USA have been insufficient.
“The study authors added that they plan to continue studying these issues.