Why the U.S. Is the Most Dangerous Place to Give Birth in the Developed World

Image of woman having baby.T. Tomsickova via Deposit Photos

Sad statistics point to alarming rates of maternal mortality in developing countries, but it is rare to see the numbers so high in developed nations. The amount of women dying from birth or pregnancy complications has been somewhat low in places like the United States.

But there’s something up with those rates. The maternal mortality rate is increasing in the U.S., ranking it as the most dangerous developed country to give birth. Several media outlets – including USA Today and NPR – conducted investigations into what is contributing to the rise of maternal damage and/or death.

On average, 50,000 women are victims of maternal morbidity, a term that refers to moms who almost die during childbirth. Death rates are triple what they are in the UK and Canada, and have gone up nearly that much in the US since the mid-1990s.

The USA Today study found that Louisiana has the highest mortality rate at 58.1 deaths per 100,000, and Georgia at number 2 with 48.4 per 100,000. Their investigation found that the leading causes of death could be traced back to hypertension and hemorrhaging.

Hypertension can become a severe condition during pregnancy (pre-eclampsia) and birth, causing organ failure or brain damage. High amounts of blood loss can send a woman into dangerous territory and require a transfusion, infusion, or emergency surgery.

Other complications include infections, blood clots, placenta remnants being left in the body, and cardiac arrest. Women don’t always have their concerns taken seriously or find themselves left in the dark following a health crisis during delivery.

Researchers cite medical care as being a critical factor in monitoring a mother’s health before, during, and after birth. They learned that in the majority of cases, detrimental outcomes could have been avoided with proper hospital care.

Women are going into comas, facing life-threatening blood loss, having total hysterectomies and becoming infertile after these birth events. Maternity patients are not receiving treatment soon enough for high blood pressure, abnormal postpartum bleeding, or other conditions if they even receive treatment at all.

Health experts and advocates are hoping that the results of these studies prompt not only more awareness but changes in hospital standards and regulations. If medical teams can catch and treat problems early, birth emergencies and deaths can be decreased.

Here’s a look at the top five states with the highest and lowest rates of maternal mortality:

Highest:

  • Louisiana
  • Georgia
  • Indiana
  • Arkansas
  • New Jersey

Lowest:

  • California
  • Massachusetts
  • Nevada
  • Connecticut
  • Colorado

Listen to one mom’s harrowing birth experience of by clicking on the video below. You’ll also hear about which state has made the most strides in reducing maternal harm. It will make you ponder the root cause of this dismal trend and what can be done to remedy it.

It boils down to changing medical practices so that these complications can be avoided. If you’re a mother, voice your concerns to your physician, research the maternity success rates at your local hospital, and demands tests/treatment if you can tell something is wrong.

Do you have a birth horror story to share that’s due to complications? Were you aware that the U.S. is leading in maternal mortality? What are your thoughts on the reasons behind these rates?

Sources:

CDC

USA Today

CBS

NPR