Even in the 21st century, women die in childbirth. In fact, the maternal morbidity rate is rising in the United States, and this is causing concern for women who want to have children. In a world where women have been birthing for ages and medical knowledge has increased so much, why are women still dying in labor?
The reasons are many, but changes can be made to decrease the deaths suffered while giving birth. While it's not possible to stop every maternal death, it is possible to find ways to offer women access to what they need to have a successful delivery and to make sure they stay well after giving birth.
The problem in many cases boils down to where a person is and what access they have to health care and knowledge about birth. There's no reason that any woman should be without health care coverage that takes care of her during pregnancy and labor, but it's still an issue for many women. Doctors and other medical personnel are also to blame for the increase in deaths since birth has stopped being looked at as a natural process and is now a money-making business that is managed like an illness.
Fixing these problems isn't easy, but being aware of why women die and how it can be changed is essential. It gives us the power to help make positive changes in laws and regulations, as well as lets us know how to take care of ourselves when pregnant and getting ready to deliver.
15 No Surgical Options
C-sections are on this list as one of the reasons the maternal death rate is rising, but in the right circumstances they can be life savers. That's why women should have access to an OR and a doctor who can perform a C-section. Though most women hope to avoid surgical deliveries since they are so much harder to recover from and carry risks that vaginal deliveries don't, there are times when C-sections save both mom and baby.
Birthing centers and home births are considered safe in most cases, but many people advise being close to a hospital in case surgery is required. In countries where C-sections aren't available, mom will run out of options when things go wrong, and there's no way to take the baby if doctors can't cut into mom's womb. In these cases, mom and baby are usually lost.
14 Size Complications
Being obese and being pregnant are not a good combination. It's best for mom to get her weight within normal range before she even attempts to conceive because obesity can also be a fertility killer.
Obesity is being blamed for the rise in maternal deaths in the U.S., and it's preventable. Though it's not easy to lose weight, women can seek help from food coaches, personal trainers, and even counselors if their overeating is due to trauma. What's important is that a woman understands that going into labor obese puts her at an increased risk of death.
Women who are obese are more likely to have heart problems, and cardiovascular issues are a big factor when looking at why moms die during birth. Women who are obese will also enter labor with a higher chance of having other problems, such as preeclampsia or gestational diabetes. Both of these conditions increase mom's risk for death.
13 Unqualified Medical Personnel
Most doctors and midwives are capable of delivering babies and looking for issues along the way that might be problems. They can't be held responsible for every bad outcome, and there are times when nothing can be done to save a mother.
However, making sure that doctors and midwives are qualified to help a woman through labor is key. Finding a certified midwife is essential, especially if a woman is going to deliver at home, and those who have the most highly trained and educated midwives tend to have the best outcomes during birth.
As for doctors, moms need to feel comfortable asking about a doctor's C-section rate and how often he uses interventions that can complicate labor. Doctors who don't want to answer these questions or who get angry that they are being asked are suspicious.
12 Heartless Health Care
Prenatal care is a game changer for both moms and babies when it comes to the outcome of birth. Good prenatal care helps doctors catch potential problems early and ensures that mom knows what vitamins she should be taking and what activities she could avoid. It helps a woman have a safe pregnancy, and that leads to a safer delivery.
Unfortunately, not every woman has access to health care, and that may get worse for women in some parts of the world. Without healthcare, women can go into labor with problems they don't know about, and it's sometimes too late to deal with them once the baby is on the way.
Prenatal care should be available to all pregnant women, and until it is we can expect maternal deaths because of the lack of it. It's a simple step to helping moms and babies survive, but it's one that so many women don't have access to.
11 Unexpected Obstructions
Obstructed labor is a leading cause of death in countries where C-sections are not available. In countries where surgical birth is an option, women whose active labor comes to a screeching halt and doesn't start back up again are taken in to have the baby removed via C-section, saving the life of the mother and the child.
Though C-sections are risky, every woman should have access to one in a time of need. As long as they don't, babies and moms will continue to die.
10 Repeated Pregnancies
According to research, the chance of dying due to a pregnancy-related issue is higher than it's ever been, sitting at 1 in 2400. Depending on how mom delivers, she may increase her risk of death with each pregnancy.
Women who have C-sections are at a higher risk of death each time they go under the knife. Because C-sections are major surgeries, the risk are already high to begin with, and each subsequent surgery leaves mom with less of a chance of coming out alive. That's why many doctors don't recommend a woman have more than three C-section in her lifetime.
What about a woman who doesn't have access to birth control and has to have repeated C-sections? She will be in a bad situation due to the risks she's exposed to. Doctors who provide VBACs or having access to birth control could help solve this problem.
9 No Education In The Intimacy Department
Not knowing about how babies are made and how to prevent it can be a huge risk for young girls. Girls under the age of 15 are more likely to die during labor than girls who are just slightly older, so it's important that they know about sex, birth control, and abstinence before they end up pregnant.
Young girls do not have the bodies to carry and birth babies, with their narrow hips often causing obstructed labor. It's also likely that they won't receive prenatal care. In countries where child marriage is common, early pregnancies in young girls is often a death sentence, one that doesn't have to occur.
In countries where child marriage isn't common, it's important to make sure girls understand the risks of unsafe sex, including a pregnancy that can lead to a difficult, sometimes fatal, labor.
8 Money Differences
Whether a woman survives birth or not should not come down to money, but it can. How much money a woman makes determines her access to doctors, midwives, and hospitals in many cases. It also affects whether or not a woman can receive decent prenatal care in certain instances.
This is true both nationally and internationally. Though the U.S. is rivaling less developed countries when it comes to being the worst place for women to birth, there are places in the world that are so economically impoverished that women start in a very bad place the minute they become pregnant. Basics, like food and safe water, can't be guaranteed, let alone tests or medical procedures that can keep tragedy at bay.
Things shouldn't be this way, but they are. How wealthy or poor a woman or her country is when she gives birth shouldn't affect the outcome, but it does.
7 Issues With Infections
Infections can kill, and they do during and after labor. They can occur anywhere and at any time, but a place where sanitized water or antibiotics are hard to get makes it more likely that mom will succumb to infection.
Most of the times infections kill mom after birth, but the seed for the infections care planted during labor and birth. Episiotomies or tears that have to be stitched can become infection, and women who have C-sections are at an increased risk of infections that occur due to surgery. Mom may not see the signs of infection immediately, but if fever or other issues start to arise after birth, it's necessary to find out why by contacting the doctor.
When infections can be treated quickly, the outcome is obviously better. The longer mom waits, the higher the risk that things won't end well.
6 Location Of The Delivery
What zip code a person lives in and whether or not they are surrounded by health care professionals and good medical facilities makes a difference in the outcome of birth. Where a person lives determines their access to prenatal care and hospitals, and it also can tell a bit about their money situation, something that can also affect the birth outcome.
There's also the actual location that mom chooses for birth. Women who choose home births are best served by a certified midwife, and women who enter hospitals for birth need to understand the profound effect that interventions can have on the outcome.
There are also stories of women who birth in cars before making it to the hospital. These situations come with their own risks since there is usually no one to assist and the environment might not be sterile.
5 Too Much Involvement
One reason researchers say maternal death during labor may be on the rise in certain countries is due to all the unnecessary interventions that women deal with in hospitals. Constant fetal heart rate monitoring, inductions for no viable reason, and epidurals may be ushering women to C-section deliveries and increasing their risks of death.
Looking at this situation on the surface, it seems like interventions and monitoring would be good ideas. The problem is that they are not evidence-based practices that majorly increase the chances of a good outcome. They can, however, lead to a C-section that wouldn't have been necessary if all of the interventions hadn't taken place.
Recommendations are coming out that say we need to let women labor longer without intervening, but only time will tell if doctors take this advice. If not, we can expect maternal deaths to increase, not decrease.
4 Pressure On The Rise
Preeclampsia is a condition where mom's blood pressure rises to a dangerous level, and protein may also be found in her urine. Preeclampsia is the phase before eclampsia, and both are dangerous for mom and the baby.
With good prenatal care, it's possible to detect preeclampsia early so doctors can intervene if necessary. Sometimes the baby has to be taken early if mom is far enough along so the pregnancy will be over and mom can recover from the blood pressure increase that sometimes leads to seizures.
The problem comes when mom doesn't know she is suffering from preeclampsia and doesn't seek help when symptoms start to show. In these cases, both mom and baby can die. That's why prenatal care is important and why skipping the urine tests that greet mom at every check up appointment while pregnant is not an option.
Race plays a factor in how likely a woman is to die during pregnancy or labor. Black women have a much higher chance, over 30 percent, of dying due to pregnancy or labor complications, but they aren't more likely to develop problems related to labor deaths.
The issue is that when a black woman develops preeclampsia or a hemorrhage, her chances of surviving are lower than that of a white woman. Why? We don't know, but researchers should be spending more time and money to find out.
No one should be predestined to a higher likelihood of death, especially when the death would occur just as their kids were born, just because of race. This isn't something we understand, so we need to work harder to figure out why this is happening and put practices in place to stop it.
2 Lack Of Clean Water
Water is life, and that is true during pregnancy and labor just like it is any time of life. For women who don't have access to water, labor is a huge risk if their pregnancies even progress that far.
It's important to have a sterile environment for labor, and it's also important to have access to clean water once the birth is over. Women who are contaminated by dirty water are more likely to struggle with infections, and a lack of access to water can also lead to dehydration.
There is no reason that while most of us have access to water any time we want that there are still parts of the world where water isn't available. It should be a priority to make sure access to clean water is available to all, a step that would decrease maternal deaths.
1 Surgical Births
C-section rates are higher than they have ever been, and while there is a time and a place for surgical births, researchers are worried about how often they are being used. A C-section rate that is over 33 percent means it's unlikely that all of these C-section are necessary. Unnecessary C-sections mean unnecessary maternal deaths because C-sections are major surgeries that put mom at much higher risk of death.
Interventions and convenience are probably to blame for the increase in C-section rates, so it's time to look at why we intervene and why we schedule C-sections when it's not necessary.
Bringing back vaginal births after C-sections(VBACs) and letting women labor without interventions can help lower the C-section rate. It's worth it to save lives. While we need to make sure women have access to C-sections, we also need to make sure they aren't being done unless there's no other choice.