The state of childbirth under a pandemic and uncertainty over reproductive health care

Mother holding a baby's hand
A mother holds her baby's hand.
Aditya Romansa/Unsplash

The pandemic posed new challenges for patients and providers during pregnancy and childbirth. 

Pregnant people are at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, especially if they are unvaccinated. More than two years after the start of the pandemic, health care professionals have protocols in place to address COVID transmission risks and to treat parents and newborns who have COVID. In Minnesota and across the U.S., though, there are historic health problems that have yet to be solved.

Over the past couple of years, the pandemic has highlighted racial health disparities and large gaps in access to care. And there are new questions about legal rights to reproductive health care, which could complicate and worsen those gaps.

Data from the Minnesota Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, and the National Institutes of Health indicates that Black women are more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women, and to experience medical conditions like preeclampsia. Black women are more likely to experience preterm labor and birth, which can lead to medical complications for newborns.

On Wednesday, MPR News host Angela Davis spoke with health care experts about how the pandemic has shaped pregnancy and childbirth. They also discussed new research in racial health disparities, how racism contributes to poorer health, and how anticipated restrictions in abortion care could affect reproductive health outcomes.

Guests: 

  • Rachel Hardeman, PhD, MPH is a tenured Associate Professor in the Division of Health Policy & Management at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health, the Blue Cross Endowed Professor in Health and Racial Equity, and the Founding Director of the Center for Antiracism Research for Health Equity.

  • Dr. Sarah Cross is an OBGYN and assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health at the University of Minnesota. She directs the Birthplace, Pregnancy Special Care Unit and the Newborn Family Care Center at M Health Fairview.

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