Women's History Month: Maternal Mortality in the U.S.

Updated: Mar 7, 2019

During the Legislative Session, we backed HB0200 Wyoming pregnant worker fairness act. Though this bill did not make it out of House Corporations, the committee that was assigned to evaluate it, we are hopeful that it will return as an interim committee topic. The reason is simple:


The U.S. has the worst rate of maternal deaths in the developed world, and 60 percent are preventable.


According to Dr. Neel Shah, MD, MPP, FACOG, an assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School, director of the Delivery Decisions Initiative at Harvard’s Ariadne Labs, and an obstetrician-gynecologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, "Very few deaths counted in maternal mortality statistics occur during childbirth. Rather, four out of five of these deaths happen in the weeks and months before or after birth. So, they occur not in the hospital, but in our communities. And they represent many failures — not just unsafe medical care, but also eroding social support necessary for women to recognize medical warning signs, like abnormal bleeding or hopelessness about the future, and to seek timely care."


Not aware of the extent of the issue that pregnant women in the U.S. currently face? Here is an overview of the recent reporting on the subject.


A soaring maternal mortality rate: What does it mean for you? Compared with their own mothers, American women today are 50% more likely to die in childbirth. And the risk is consistently three to four times higher for black women than white women, irrespective of income or education.


Maternal Mortality: An American Crisis. Dr. Mary-Ann Etiebet said, "The United States is the only industrialized country where the rates of maternal deaths have increased, not decreased. And so, young women actually have a higher risk of dying during pregnancy and childbirth than their mothers did."


The Last Person You’d Expect to Die in Childbirth from ProPublica in partnership with NPR details the death of Lauren Bloomstein, a neonatal nurse, in the hospital where she worked. The story illustrates a profound disparity that is often invisible: The health care system focuses on babies but often ignores their mothers.


In a continuation of the series, the reporters teamed up again to produce Lost Mothers. An estimated 700 to 900 women in the U.S. died from pregnancy-related causes in 2016. ProPublica and NPR's reporting have identified 134 of them so far.


California decided it was tired of women bleeding to death in childbirth. As a result, the maternal mortality rate in California is now a third of the American average. Here's why: The California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative is a multi-stakeholder organization committed to ending preventable morbidity, mortality and racial disparities in California maternity care. Read more about their simple, replicable approach to reducing maternal mortality.


Long overlooked by science, pregnancy is finally getting attention it deserves

Melissa Moore, a University of Massachusetts Medical School scientist, and her colleagues’ experience highlights a persistent problem in medical research. About 10 percent of reproductive-age women become pregnant each year in the United States, but far less research is done into pregnancy than into much less common conditions. The effect of medicines on pregnant women and their fetuses is rarely studied. Basic understanding of pregnancy itself is full of gaping scientific holes, mysteries that include how the placenta forms and what, exactly, controls the timing of birth.


“If you don’t do these studies, then you don’t have the data to base your decision, but you’re still making decisions,” said Dr. Catherine Spong, chief of ­maternal-fetal medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, who chaired the [federal] task force. “You’re providing care in the absence of data.”

Other articles of interest:

Beyoncé, Serena Williams open up about potentially fatal childbirths, a problem especially for black mothers. Black women are 243 percent more likely than white women to die of pregnancy- or childbirth-related causes, ProPublica reported.


Serena Williams: What my life-threatening experience taught me about giving birth. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black women in the United States are over three times more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes. "When I fell short of breath, I didn't wait a second to alert the nurses. This sparked a slew of health complications that I am lucky to have survived."


She Helped Deliver Hundreds of Babies. Then She Was Arrested. A revealing portrait of the complicated interface between rural healthcare, religious strictures, cultural mores, available resources, education, licensure, and the law. And a striking show of support by the Mennonite women who have been helped by their birth attendant.

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