Omaha mom, doula calls for more childbirth education as pregnancy-related deaths increase due to COVID-19

Posted at 7:22 PM, Oct 20, 2022

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — It's supposed to be one of the happiest times of your life: getting ready to have a child. But the global pandemic saw an increase in women dying from pregnancy or childbirth complications last year.

A government report shows COVID-19 contributed to a quarter of maternal deaths in 2020 and 2021. Research shows mental health conditions like depression and anxiety were experienced during and after pregnancy, more so due to COVID-19.

Omaha mom, Mikayla Hedlund, was pregnant with her daughter during the pandemic and it wasn't easy welcoming her child into the world.

"You're carrying an entire, other human — that is stressful. Now, another layer of that is going to include the safety of, not only yourself but your child, in the midst of a global pandemic and how you're going to manage that." Hedlund said.

The CDC found that, since the start of the pandemic, pregnant women are at higher risk for outcomes related to the pandemic like pregnancy complications, extreme illness and death.

Hedlund says it's shining a light on a crisis she's known was underway. Her view is that there is a need to increase education for those expecting since there are so many unknowns.

"Attending a quality, non-biased childbirth education class makes you feel more empowered and educated on, not only your choices, but also your rights," Hedlund said.

Dr. Mark Rupp with Nebraska Medicine believes this research stresses the importance of women getting vaccinated if they are pregnant or trying to have a baby.

"This is largely preventable with vaccination and the vaccines have proven safe in pregnancy. They've been very carefully studied at this point, and we continue to have a lot of women not taking advantage of those preventative techniques and those tools," Rupp said.

For Hedlund, what she wants to see is additional government funding poured into this and to see doulas and lactation consultants funded by insurance.

"There are people dying in what should be their happiest moment of their life, as they are expanding their family, and unfortunately they are losing their life," Hedlund said.

The government report also found the maternal death rate for Black women was higher compared to white and Hispanic women.

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