On Oct. 29, 2022, Whitney Reising Oliver died. She was 22 weeks pregnant with her first child, a little boy she and her husband had named Felix. Their unborn son also died.
“Whit was so excited to be a mother and raise baby Felix in Chicago, IL—the city she loved, alive with her favorite art, culture, music, and food—and the city she called home for the past 17 years,” her obituary read. Oliver worked with artists with developmental disabilities and loved hiking, cooking, and cuddling her cocker spaniel Magic.
Unexpected, age-inappropriate death of otherwise healthy people is always shocking. But when a pregnant woman like Whitney Oliver and her unborn baby die, it seems even more devastating and tragic.
America’s Subpar Maternity Care
America has a state-of-the-art medical system and some of the best research universities in the world.
Scientists come to the United States from abroad to conduct meticulous medical research and contribute to advancing the art and science of medicine.
Most people don’t realize that for years, the United States has had one of the highest maternal mortality rates of any country in the industrialized world. America has an ignominiously high infant mortality rate as well.
And our abnormally high maternal mortality rates don’t include what experts call “near misses”—pregnancy complications so severe they cause a mom to come close to death.
According to a 2010 Amnesty International report, “Deadly Delivery: The Maternal Health Care Crisis in the USA,” some 1.7 million women a year—a third of all pregnant women—have pregnancy-related complications, and over 68,000 experience a “near miss.”
But now our already subpar maternity care system (compared to other high-income countries), appears to be getting worse.
Skyrocketing Maternal Death Rate in 2021
According to a new report by the National Center for Health Statistics, in 2021, maternal deaths soared to their highest rates in almost 60 years. There was a 40 percent increase in the number of birthing moms who died during pregnancy or within 42 days of giving birth.
That translates into 1,205 pregnant women and postpartum moms who died in 2021 (over three women a day), compared to 861 women in 2020 and 754 in 2019.
This is the highest rate of maternal demise since 1965, according to newspaper reports.
These numbers are actually more concerning than they may first appear. The birth rate in the United States has been trending downward, so we would expect fewer women to die in or around childbirth in the past few years.
Why Are Birthing Women Dying?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the main causes of pregnancy-related deaths are cardiovascular conditions, infection, cardiomyopathy, and hemorrhaging.
In the past, experts have blamed women, saying that the death rates in America are high because American women are overweight, are of “advanced maternal age” (even though being an older mom is also associated with longevity and other positive health outcomes), or don’t seek out enough maternity care.
Other experts, including the late Marsden Wagner, M.D., a perinatologist and epidemiologist who worked for the World Health Organization for 15 years, and California-based obstetrician Stuart Fischbein, M.D., blame the system.
These pundits point out that overly medicalized birth often leads to the worst outcomes; that unnecessary cesarean birth sharply increases maternal mortality; and that systemic racism in the society at large as well as in the medical system, makes birth much riskier for African-American women and people of color.
Is COVID-19 or COVID Vaccines Causing Maternal Mortality?
But with this upswing in maternal deaths, in the absence of hard evidence, some pundits are blaming COVID-19. And the mainstream media, including Reuters, CNN, and the Wall Street Journal, have reported that COVID-19 infection has contributed to the surge in maternal demise.
“The number and percentage of maternal death records mentioning COVID-19 were greater in 2021 than in 2020, which (suggests) that COVID-19 has likely contributed to the increase in maternal deaths,” Donna Hoyert, author of the study at CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, told Reuters.
However, there has been and continues to be enormous pressure on pregnant women to get vaccinated for COVID-19. If the vaccines were making COVID-19 infections less likely, then we would expect the maternal mortality rates to have fallen—not risen—in 2021.
Over 1.5 Million Adverse Events Reported
These adverse events include 34,725 deaths following vaccination and 4,949 miscarriages.
The COVID-19 vaccines must be considered as a potential causative agent for any pregnant woman who has had them and subsequently experiences a miscarriage, loses a baby after birth, or loses her life during the pregnancy or after the birth.
According to a December 2022 study available as a pre-print (which means it has not yet gone through peer review), data collected by the CDC shows that COVID-19 vaccines are much more reactogenic than flu vaccines, associated with more than twice the number of menstrual abnormalities, miscarriages, fetal chromosomal abnormalities, fetal malformations, fetal cardiac disorders, stillbirths, and premature death, among other things.
“COVID-19 vaccine [adverse events] far exceed the safety signal on all recognized thresholds,” the team of scientists, which included three medical doctors, wrote.
“Pregnancy complications and menstrual abnormalities are significantly more frequent following COVID-19 vaccinations than Influenza vaccinations. A worldwide moratorium on the use of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnancy is advised until randomized prospective trials document safety in pregnancy and long-term follow-up in offspring.”
In America, pregnant women are given one to two influenza vaccines (two if the pregnancy spans more than one flu season), a vaccine to protect the baby against pertussis, tetanus, and diphtheria (TdaP), and a COVID-19 vaccine.
The safety of giving these vaccines at the same time has never been established.
The synergistic effect of exposing a pregnant mom and her fetus to the ingredients in these vaccines is also not understood.
COVID-19 Vaccines Contributing to Maternal Mortality
On April 28, 2021, Whitney Reising Oliver made a public post on Facebook about the FREE VACCINATION EVENT at the Bridgeport Art Center in Chicago.
The flyer she posted features an ethnic-looking young woman in braids with a mask on her face who is proudly displaying a band-aid on her arm.
Whether Oliver herself was vaccinated then or not is unknown. However, according to Cedars Sinai, some 62 percent of pregnant women have gotten at least one COVID-19 vaccine.
“The vaccines are contributing to a rise in neonatal mortality. The stillbirth data is hard to ignore,” Dr. Stuart Fischbein, an obstetrician based in southern Utah who has over 40 years of clinical experience, said.
But Fischbein also said that he believed that maternal mortality is often due to a combination of things. In the context of the last two years, these include lack of access to prenatal care because of the lockdowns; overwhelming anxiety, stress and depression; lack of exercise, outside time, and vitamin D; as well as poor nutrition.
However, Fischbein said, in addition to these issues, the COVID-19 vaccines are likely a contributing factor as well. COVID-19 vaccination was the only thing that changed in 2021, he pointed out.
“We’ve seen a rise in maternal deaths from heart issues,” he said. “Pregnant women should not be having heart problems, and we know that the vaccines affect the heart. There’s nothing in the environment that’s changed in the last two years other than the known risk of myocarditis, pericarditis, and arrhythmias caused by these COVID-19 mRNA vaccines.”
“So the simplest explanation is probably the most likely one,” Fischbein continued. “These vaccines affect the heart and the clotting mechanisms. We’re seeing more heart issues, hemorrhaging, placenta irregularities, and menstrual irregularities. If you were a detective investigating a crime scene and there were Skittles all over, you might want to suspect the Skittles.”