New study affirms link between sickle cell disease and risk of increased mortality in pregnant people

Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers have further documented an association between a substantially higher risk of maternal morbidity and mortality among those with the inherited blood disorder sickle cell disease (SCD) compared to those without it.

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.

The study findings, published in JAMA Network Open, highlight a need for increased disease-specific interventions for pregnant people with SCD, as well as health disparities long known to affect people with the disorder. 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.

“People with sickle cell disease are already lacking profoundly needed research and clinical care. Pregnant people with sickle cell disease are at an even greater disadvantage,” said Lydia Pecker, assistant professor of medicine specialising in haematology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

“Pregnancy can bring out negative side effects of any pre-existing condition, and sickle cell disease is no exception,” said Ahizechukwu Eke, associate professor of gynaecology and obstetrics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “Sickle cell patients require more interventions, including increased blood transfusions and more frequent ultrasounds to assess the condition of the fetus.”

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