Researchers at Columbia University analyzed death certificates of 7,642 people who died while pregnant or who had just given birth from 2017 to 2020. They found 1,249 had died of an overdose, usually from methamphetamine, cocaine or fentanyl. During the study period, the rate of overdose deaths in this group almost doubled, from 6.56 to 11.85 per 100,000.
“We’ve seen significant increases in fatal and nonfatal overdose in the general population during the pandemic,” study first author Emilie Bruzelius, MPH, said in a news release. “It now appears that pregnant and postpartum women are being affected as well.”
Bruzelius added, “Pregnant and postpartum people are known to face barriers to accessing drug treatment and harm reduction services, that when compounded by pandemic-associated stressors, healthcare shutdowns, and an increasingly volatile unregulated drug supply, may have increased fatal overdose risk.”