Maternal mortality is on the rise in the USA and was recently the topic on National Public Radio (NPR). In this day and age, the loss of even one mother for her baby or babies is too many. These following NPR news titles summarize the growing concern:
- Lost Mothers: Maternal Mortality in the US
- Focus on infants during childbirth leaves US moms in danger.
- Black mothers keep dying after giving birth.
- For every woman who dies in childbirth in the US, 70 more come close.
- Nearly dying in Childbirth: Why preventable complications are growing in the US.
- US Has Worst Rate of Maternal Deaths in the Developed World.
American mothers die in childbirth at a much higher rate than those in all other developed countries, and three times more than in Britain and Canada. And in America, 70 women reach the brink of death for every woman who dies.
Having taught BirthWorks Childbirth Education and Doula Workshops over the last 25 years, one thing that surfaces over and over again during our Grieving and Healing sessions is that too many low risk women are going into the hospital to give birth, and they are coming out high risk. What is going wrong?
Take for example a story that is all too common. A pregnant woman in her twenties is in good health and goes into the hospital to give birth to her first baby. Labor takes longer than expected and though the baby is fine, she is encouraged to have an epidural to take the pain away. Her labor slows down and she ends up with a cesarean section for failure to progress. She develops an infection from the surgery and requires IV antibiotics with prolonged hospital stay. At the BirthWorks workshop, she wonders how things went so wrong.
Though less common, there are a number of stories of pregnant woman in good health who suffer from the complications of any major surgery (including cesareans), such as infection and sepsis that is difficult to control, hemorrhage, and pulmonary emboli. These are some of the causes of maternal mortality. As the cesarean rate increases, so does maternal mortality and morbidity. Some women require hysterectomies to control the situation and they are then infertile. The cost of IVF (invitro fertilization) to have another baby is extremely high.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, such complications, often fatal, are rising faster than the rate of maternal deaths, doubling between 1993 and 2014. NPR launched an online call-out and stories of catastrophic complications with over 4,000 pouring in.
See Part II in our June E-news for a description of factors leading to the rise in maternal mortality and morbidity at births in the USA.