Their analysis, using a large national administrative database with records for pregnant people with SCD, found the maternal mortality rate was 26 times greater than the national average. This figure has not improved since the last time this population was assessed.
In the United States, the condition is most prevalent in the Black community, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2000 to 2003, the maternal mortality rate for people with sickle cell disease was 7.2 deaths per 10,000. In this study looking at data collected 15 years later, the mortality rate among pregnant people with SCD was 13.3 deaths per 10,000. 90% of people with SCD are Black, so pregnancies among people with SCD are often exposed to the harms of systemic and interpersonal racism.
The genetic alteration at the root of the disease affects red blood cells that contain hemoglobin, the protein responsible for transporting and delivering oxygen to the body, to become “sickled” in appearance.
The disease not only causes anemia, strokes, organ damage and shortened life spans, but also repeated and frequent episodes of severe pain when the misshapen red blood cells get stuck in small blood vessels.
Although SCD is a lifelong debilitating illness, advances in treatment have led to nearly all affected people reaching their reproductive years in the United States.
For the mother, SCD is linked to heightened risks of blood clots, chronic pain, anemia and preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy). The researchers confirmed that babies born to people with SCD tend to be smaller than average, delivered early and show damage to the placenta. Data from this study also affirm that SCD is associated with an increased risk of fetal death.