Despite the vast and significant improvements to maternal and obstetrical health care, even in very recent years, there is a very high maternal mortality rate in the United States. In fact, it is the only developed country where maternal mortality is on the rise. While infant mortality is at an all-time low, women are dying during and after childbirth at appalling rates. Yes, even in 2017.
NPR and ProPublica have teamed up over the last few months to investigate maternal mortality in the US. The investigation is deep and thorough, and I’ve listed articles below. To summarize, 700-900 women in the US are dying each year due to complications that arise from childbirth, and the Center for Disease Control indicates that the majority of them are preventable deaths. That is the worst statistic among those of developing nations worldwide. And, the majority of those preventable deaths are among rural, black women.
Why is this happening? NPR reports a few factors, including new mothers, being older than they used to be, half of the pregnancies are unplanned, and many women don’t address their health problems before pregnancy. Also, the higher rate of C-sections, the burden of a fragmented health system on those without good insurance, and conflicting information regarding what symptoms are problematic all prevent the proper care and addressing of life-threatening issues surrounding childbirth.
The most disturbing factor noted by this study, however, is the lack of attention given to mothers. During the childbirth and postpartum periods, almost all clinical attention is given to the infants. According to the study, “…under the assumption that it had conquered maternal mortality, the American medical system has focused more on fetal and infant safety and survival than on the mother’s health and well-being.” Mothers are being left behind. In fact, the article continues, that maternal-fetal medicine physicians can complete their training without even stepping into a labor and delivery unit.
When women leave the hospital, they receive an overwhelming amount of information about how to care for their child. They receive little or no information on how to care for themselves. The next time they see a doctor is usually not for six weeks postpartum, and the lack of a standardized approach to maternal care in the US leaves nurses uneducated enough to inform their discharging patients of risks.
Please take the time to read the articles below. Familiarize yourselves with the potential complications of childbirth and postpartum, including depression and anxiety which affect upwards for one million women annually—the most common complication of childbirth.
American women deserve better care and treatment, and it is up to us to demand it. We need to share our stories with each other, educating ourselves and aiding our sisters. It takes a village to raise healthy mothers, and we are losing our villages to doctors who aren’t helping. Please, please, reach out. Demand help.
If you or someone you love has experienced childbirth complications, please share your story. It may save someone’s life.