Maternal death rates are higher in the United States than in any other developed country. A recent report from NPR and ProPrublica found some troubling realities facing expectant families in our nation, including the fact that American women are three times as likely to die during pregnancy than Canadian mothers and six times more likely than mothers in Scandinavian countries.
Every year in the United States, 700 to 900 women die from causes related to childbirth or pregnancy. These numbers have increased in the years from 2000 to 2014, the period studied by NPR and ProPublica. When considering maternal health, it’s essential to understand the difference between birth defects and birth injuries.
This is a problem unique to the United States; maternal death rates in all other countries have been declining. To put it in perspective, one expert from the U.K. said that in Britain, a father is more likely to die than the mother during a pregnancy.
Understanding why our nation fares so much worse in caring for pregnant women is no easy task.
How Our System Fails Mothers
According to the research, hospitals are often unprepared for medical emergencies during pregnancy and lack uniform protocols. Doctors and other staff can sometimes be confused about identifying warning signs of complications and how to treat obstetric emergencies. C-sections, which are overused in the United States, also increase the risk for complications.
Our healthcare systems also fail mothers in more general ways. For example, only 6% of federal and state block grants for maternal and child health go to mothers. Many mothers lack adequate insurance and access to health care, which increases the risks for maternal deaths.
Over Half of These Deaths are Preventable
Around 60% of maternal deaths were preventable. Doctors are responsible for identifying warning signs of complications during pregnancy or obstetric emergencies. But many doctors, especially ob/gyns, are responsible for identifying risks beforehand, informing the family of necessary precautions and assisting mothers in reducing the possibility of complications.
There are other issues that contribute to the higher number of maternal deaths, such as the increasing age of expectant mothers and the number of unplanned pregnancies, which makes it more likely that a mother would not address chronic health issues before she becomes pregnant.
Over the past several decades, the public health community has placed an emphasis on reducing infant mortality rates, and their efforts have paid off. Infant mortality rates in the United States are now at their lowest in history. Babies suffer a much higher rate of death than pregnant mothers, but the statistics show that progress can be made if action is taken.
Yet, the increase of maternal deaths in the United States points to several institutional failings. It’s clear that our healthcare system – at both the macro and micro levels – is falling short in providing the care that mothers deserve.
At the accident and injury law office of Terry Bryant, we assist people who have suffered from medical negligence. We care deeply about the health of expecting mothers and advocating for women and families that have suffered unnecessarily. To schedule a free consultation with our firm, contact us today by filling out our online contact form or giving us a call at 1 (800) 444-5000 or locally in the Houston area at (713) 973-8888.