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In the early phase of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, United States Emergency Medical Services (EMS) experienced a decrease in calls, and at the same time, an increase in out-of-hospital deaths. This finding led to a concern for the implications of potential delays in care for the obstetric population.
This study examines the impact of the pandemic on prehospital care amongst pregnant women.
A retrospective observational study was conducted comparing obstetric-related EMS activations in Maryland (USA) during the pandemic (March 10-July 20, 2020) to a pre-pandemic period (March 10-July 20, 2019). Comparative analysis was used to analyze the difference in frequency and acuity of calls between the two periods.
There were fewer obstetric-related EMS encounters during the pandemic compared to the year prior (daily average during the pandemic 12.5 [SD = 3.8] versus 14.6 [SD = 4.1] pre-pandemic; P <.001), although the percent of total female encounters remained unchanged (1.6% in 2020 versus 1.5% in 2019; P = .091). Key indicators of maternal status were not significantly different between the two periods. African-American women represented a disproportionately high percentage of obstetric-related activations (36.2% in 2019 and 34.8% in 2020).
In this state-wide analysis of EMS calls in Maryland early in the pandemic, no significant differences existed in the utilization of EMS by pregnant women. Prehospital EMS activations amongst pregnant women in Maryland only decreased slightly without an increase in acuity. Of note, over-representation by African-American women compared to population statistics raises concern for broader systemic differences in access to obstetric care.
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