Maternal Mortality Rates Skyrocket Across Country

Across the United States, women giving birth are now almost three times more likely to die than they were just three decades ago. In a new report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States now leads the developed world in maternity mortality. Tragically, the majority of these deaths fall upon poor women and women of color. Perhaps even worse, the study shows that the majority of these deaths are completely preventable. With the increased attention on infant mortality rates in recent years, it appears medical professionals and researchers need to focus their efforts on improving the health of both the pregnant mother and the infant.

The wide-ranging report published by the government agency surveyed nine states to identify the characteristics and causes of maternal deaths, and consequently provide recommendations for reducing the nation’s shamefully high mortality rate. After collecting data from the states, the CDC reports that almost 60 percent of maternal deaths are preventable. The most common causes of death among all Americans were hemorrhaging, cardiovascular and coronary conditions, and infections.

Researchers noted that while these may be the most common causes overall in America, different races and ethnicities suffered from some causes more than others. For example, 11.2 percent of maternal deaths among non-Hispanic white Americans could be contributed to mental health conditions. For non-Hispanic black Americans, that number is only 1.2 percent. Sadly, the racial disparity in maternal deaths appears to permeate the entire study – non-Hispanic black Americans comprised 48 percent of deaths, Hispanic Americans totaled 30.2 percent, and non-Hispanic White Americans comprised only 28 percent. Age also played a factor in the maternal death rate with women over the age of 30 at a higher risk. Demographic concerns aside, the study reports that the “cause” of these preventable maternal deaths are typically caused by the Patient/Family (38.2 percent) or the Healthcare Provider (33.9 percent).

Despite the harsh conclusion of the study, the thorough research performed by the CDC allows medical professionals to adequately address the problem. As such, the report provides several recommendations to help reduce the maternal mortality rate in America. These focus on improving the system that seems to be failing expectant mothers – from increasing training and communication to retooling policies and standards relating to screening, diagnosis, and prevention.  As the report delves deeper into these policy recommendations, its encouraging that this unnecessary and preventable problem is finally be analyzed and solved, despite its inherent complexity.

The CDC’s final recommendation requires hospitals to keep meticulous records on all maternal deaths – serving the dual purpose of holding healthcare providers accountable and ensuring significant progress is being made to reduce these unnecessary deaths. Having a single mother pass away from a preventable condition is one too many, America’s record of 700 maternal deaths each year is shameful. Hospitals should move quickly to implement these recommendations; American mothers and their children deserve much better.

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