Women today are more likely to die because of pregnancy-related issues than women in other developed countries and they are about 50% more likely to succumb during childbirth than their own mothers were a generation before. As maternal mortality rates in the United States continue to rise, expectant mothers should pay close attention to the care they receive.
Maternal Mortality in the United States
In 1990, there was an average of 17 maternal deaths per 100,000pregnant women in the U.S. Between 1990 and 2015, that number rose to 26 deaths per 100,000.
Serious pregnancy-related injuries are also rising. It is estimated that for each maternal death, up to 100 more suffer serious injuries. These include uncontrolled blood pressure and blood clotting disorders.
It’s further estimated that for every woman who experiences a severe injury, tens of thousands more suffer physical or mental illnesses following childbirth. These rates are in contrast to international trends which have demonstrated a significant decline over the same period.
Death isn’t Confined to Delivery
Contrary to popular myth, most maternal deaths do not occur in the delivery room. Approximately 80% occur in the weeks and months following childbirth. One possible reason for this is that women are discharged from the hospital with undiagnosed injuries suffered during the delivery process.
Other causes may stem from difficulty adjusting to parenthood, sleep deprivation, or pressures within work or family life. There are many causes and physicians have a duty of care that includes preparing expectant mothers for the post-pregnancy risks they will face. Further, failure to address these risks during pregnancy can increase the risk of the infant suffering a birth injury during the delivery process. In fact, it may help reduce the risk of serious injuries including Cerebral Palsy, asphyxia, and other injuries with potentially fatal consequences.
Minimizing Risk of Maternal Pregnancy
There is no magic pill that will eliminate the risks that come with pregnancy and childbirth. However, there are actions that expectant mothers can take to reduce their risk. These proactive measures include the tried and trusted advice on eating healthy, sleeping often, exercising regularly, and learning how to manage stress. These steps also include working closely with the members of the delivery team to address specific health risks and to develop a care plan for the period following delivery.