Pregnancy-related deaths are on the rise; in Utah, opioids contribute

May 9, 2019, 6:56 PM | Updated: 7:27 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a startling new statistic about pregnancy and death.

Deaths related to pregnancies are on the rise.

A young woman now is twice as likely to die giving birth than her mother was. These types of death are still rare — 17 out of 100,000 — but the rate is rising. And the risk doubles again if you’re Black, Native American or an Alaskan native.

Utah isn’t immune. But here, opioids come into play.

A new study done by the University of Utah Health’s Dr. Marcela Smid found that, most often, drug overdose is what causes Utah’s pregnant women and new moms to die. And the worst offender is opioids.

“The leading cause is what we call drug-induced death,” Smid said, “so deaths that were caused by drugs, and 74 percent of those deaths were opioid-related.”

The study found drug-induced deaths made up 24 percent of all deaths in the state from 2005 to 2014. During those nine years, there were 136 pregnancy-related deaths. Of those, 35 of them were related to drugs; 27 of those 35 were opioid-related.

“In relation to other states we’re not much higher,” Smid said. “But we are higher than other states proportionately for drugs that cause death to our mothers.”

She says there are several committees in the United States devoted to studying this issue, so more information is being gathered. Dr. Smid hopes it will raise awareness that this isn’t just a Utah problem — but a nation-wide one.

Addiction plays a huge role in these numbers, but there are also other factors in all of this.

“What we see in this study, and emergingly throughout the country, is that maternal mental health is really driving a lot of this,” Smid said. “Depression, anxiety those things are leading either to moms delaying care for themselves if they have a medical issue and suicides are also contributing to this.”

She says in her field there are several factors that can affect these issues. Dr. Smid also says patients express that, overall, there needs to be better systems in place for helping postpartum moms. This includes how the provider screens moms for issues, healthcare facilities, and even how communities can help better support moms.

“We need to have places where moms can go for help,” Smid said. “That those providers and those health systems and the bigger, broader systems so that is our social communities, our religious communities, our cultural communities are able to respond to moms who need help.”

Contributing: Jeff Caplan, Nick Wyatt, Jeff Caplan’s Afternoon News

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.


baby feet, utah postpartum retreat helps new moms...

Britt Johnson

Utah company aims to help postpartum moms with special retreats

The founder of Utah Postpartum Retreat said she thinks new moms are at high risk for developing postpartum mood disorders because they lack support.

20 hours ago

a child plays with a bubble, utah medicaid changing for kids...

Britt Johnson

Thousands of Utah children losing their Medicaid benefits

Medicaid is checking eligibility again and many people in Utah are making too much money to qualify.

14 days ago

children at a daycare, child care desert issues affecting utah...

Peter Johnston

You could be living in a child care desert. Here’s what that means

Data from 2019 shows that 77% of Utah's population live in a child care desert. Two bills seek to change that.

16 days ago

Child care provider Holly Kingston gives children a snack at her home in West Jordan on Friday, Jan...

Adam Small

Utah lawmaker pushing legislation to address child care shortage

If it becomes law, HB153 would allow unlicensed child care providers to watch eight kids. Right they can watch six.

16 days ago

The Provo Food Bank has less than a month's supply left and is asking for the public's help through...

Tammy Kikuchi and Waverly Golden

Provo Food Bank supplies running low, public donations needed

The Provo Food Bank has less than a month's supply left and is asking for the public's help through donations. 

17 days ago

kids play at a child care center in utah...

Allessandra Harris

Bill to expand child care options in Utah moves forward to Senate

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Luz Escamilla said most Utah residents live in a child care desert, with no options within 5 miles of them.

17 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Pregnancy-related deaths are on the rise; in Utah, opioids contribute