CDC finds mental health is leading cause of pregnancy-related death

Steven Loeb · September 22, 2022 · Short URL:

Only a handful of the many mental health startups raising funding focus on women/maternity

Mental health conditions are the most common complications when it comes pregnancy and childbirth, affecting 800,000, or 1 in 5, women each year in the United States. These conditions include depression, anxiety disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar illness, and substance use disorders.

Untreated maternal mental health conditions are expensive, costing the U.S. over $14 billion every year, but the consequences are much more serious and deeply felt than that: mental health is the leading cause of pregnancy-related deaths, according a report out from the CDC. 

From 2017 to 2019, there were 1,018 pregnancy-related deaths, and an underlying cause of death was identified for 987, or 97%, of those. In nearly 23% of cases, the cause was a mental health condition, including suicide and overdose/poisoning related to substance use disorder. That was followed by 13.7 percent of deaths caused by hemorrhage, 12.8% caused by cardiac and coronary conditions, and 9.2% caused by infection.

When broken down into demographics, mental health conditions were the leading underlying cause of death among Hispanic and non-Hispanic White persons, at 24.1% and 34.8% respectively.

For non-Hispanic Black persons, the leading cause was cardiac and coronary conditions, while hemorrhage was the leading underlying cause of death for non-Hispanic Asian persons.

The report also found that, among the 1,018 pregnancy-related deaths, 839 of them, or 84%, were preventable.

"A death is considered preventable if the committee determines that there was at least some chance of the death being averted by one or more reasonable changes to patient, community, provider, facility, and/or systems factors," it says in the report.

Mental health companies focused on women and mothers

Among the many companies in the mental health space that raised funding last year and so far this year, only a handful of them put a specific focus on women.

The most relevant are Canopie, which is dedicated to providing mental health resources to pregnant women and new moms; the company announced an undisclosed amount of funding in July, and She Matters, an online platform and mobile app designed to support Black women/ WOC who experience postpartum comorbidities, which raised $1.5 million in August.

Caraway, a digital healthcare company for college women+ that provides integrated mental, reproductive and physical healthcare services, which raised $10.5 million in July; LunaJoy, which helps women access mental care through virtual therapy, counseling, and medication management services, raised an undisclosed amount of funding in March.

There's also companies that provide care for women that includes mental health, such as Tia, a provider of in-person and virtual physical, mental and reproductive healthcare, which has raised over $132 million in funding; and Maven Clinic, a provider of virtual care for women and families, which raised a $110 million round in 2021.

In April, Brave Health, a virtual-first behavioral health provider, partnered with The Doula Network (TDN), a Medicaid provider committed to improving access to doula care and expanding reimbursement for doula services. 

(Vator will be holding its Future of Behavioral and Mental Health event in October with speakers that include Russ Glass from Headspace Health; Steve Gatena from; Ben Lewis from Limbix; Rebecca Egger from Little Otter; Divya Shah from Meta, and more. Register here to buy your ticket)

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