U.S. Maternal Mortality Rates on the Rise

By Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman, P.C.Birth Injury Attorney

newborn baby hospitalHow can a medically and technologically-advanced first-world country have one of the world’s highest maternal morbidity rates? According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, some 50,000 expectant or new mothers suffer life-threatening complications in the U.S. every year, many of which leave them emotionally traumatized, infertile and financially devastated.

A 2015 study published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology found that the maternal mortality rate for American women jumped 27 percent from 19 deaths per 100,000 live births to nearly 25 deaths per 100,000 live births within the past 15 years.

More mothers suffering severe childbirth complications

Every year in the United States, anywhere from 700 to 900 women die because of complications during pregnancy and/or childbirth. Some women suffer extreme hemorrhaging, others heart and organ failure, and some women lose the ability to ever conceive again.

Many experts argue that better pre-natal care from health care practitioners could have mitigated or even prevented many of these maternal complications. In a recent study at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in California, researchers discovered that over a 30-month period in 2015 there was an opportunity for improvement in care in almost 50 percent of all severe complications arising from pregnancy and childbirth. To put these numbers into perspective, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that the United States has a higher maternal mortality rate than Turkey, Iran or Libya – countries that do not enjoy first-rate medical care. The WHO further says that half of these maternal deaths are preventable.

“These numbers are really high, and far too many of them are preventable,” says Dr. Elliott Main, who heads up the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative. A portion of these complications may be attributed to the unusually high number of elective hysterectomies performed in the U.S. American women are nearly five times more likely to have a hysterectomy compared to Swedish or British women, says the CDC. U.S. women are also three times more likely to need respiratory assistance immediately following childbirth compared to their counterparts in the United Kingdom.

Declining health a contributing factor

Like women in other developed nations, U.S. women are waiting longer before starting a family, some until their mid-30s. This advanced age coupled with an increase in obesity rates has spelled an uptick in chronic problems such as high blood pressure (which can lead to pre-eclampsia) and adult-onset diabetes. Women who are overweight or have problems controlling their blood sugar levels are statistically more likely to experience serious complications during pregnancy and childbirth.

According to some maternal safety groups, our medical system has adopted a “ culture of intervention,” taking preemptive and sometimes dangerous steps from performing non-emergency C-sections, and inducing labor with drugs as a matter of course. C-sections, just like any kind of major surgery, augment the chances of complications, such as infection, blood clots and hemorrhaging. C-sections can also increase the risk of uterine problems in following pregnancies.

The U.S. medical system has put increasing focus on fetal well-being and survival, helping to reduce the number of infant deaths in recent decades. However, the outcomes for expectant mothers is not improving. As hospitals continue to implement core policies to address both infant and maternal care, lapses still occur leaving mother and child at risk.

Legal advocacy in Rockland County and Bergen County

When human error or negligence is to blame for a child’s pain and suffering, the birth injury attorneys at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman are here to help. Our practice leverages decades of experience assisting families affected by medical malpractice with compassion and honesty.

To schedule a confidential consultation with a New Jersey birth injury lawyer at our firm, we invite you to call our office toll-free at 1-(800) 711-5258.

Additional Resources on Maternal Morbidity Rates:

  1. NPR, Nearly Dying In Childbirth: Why Preventable Complications Are Growing In U.S. https://www.npr.org/2017/12/22/572298802/nearly-dying-in-childbirth-why-preventable-complications-are-growing-in-u-s
  2. TIME, Why U.S. Women Still Die During Childbirth http://time.com/4508369/why-u-s-women-still-die-during-childbirth/
  3. NPR, Focus On Infants During Childbirth Leaves U.S. Moms In Danger https://www.npr.org/2017/05/12/527806002/focus-on-infants-during-childbirth-leaves-u-s-moms-in-danger
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