As revealed by the World Health Organization (WHO) , approximately 830 women die from causes pertaining to pregnancy and childbirth every single day. Worldwide, the maternal mortality between 1990 and 2015 has dropped by about 44 percent. However, the number has doubled since 2000 in the United States.
According to data provided by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention’s WONDER online database, more than 4000 maternal deaths occurred in the U.S. between 2011 and 2015. Since then the maternal mortality rate has been rising, suggesting an increase of 26.6 percent from 2000 to 2014. In comparison with other developed countries in North America or Western Europe, the U.S. recorded the highest maternal mortality rate despite the trend decreasing across the world. The CDC report also suggests that black women are affected more in comparison to white women.
The situation is so alarming that last year the Congress passed, and the President later sanctioned special legislation to provide grants to states to investigate pregnancy-related deaths.
According to United Nations reports, Canada's maternal mortality rate is half of that of the United States. Meanwhile, some other developed countries like Sweden, Norway, and Switzerland have even lower rates.
Recently, experts gathered at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health discussed ways to address the issue. The Panel members suggest that rural challenges, racial inequities and the high rate of cesarean sections in the US as major preventable causes to maternal mortality.
"For every maternal death, there are about 60 near misses," says Dr. Haywood Brown, past president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and one of the Harvard forum panelists. "And those near misses include things like hemorrhage that didn't lead to death, heart failure that didn't lead to death, a blood clot that didn't lead to death and infection that didn't lead to death."
A Commonwealth Fund Report suggests that one-third American women don't abide by the self-care norms of pregnancy because most can't afford it. Other contributing factors could be an increase in chronic issues like heart disease and diabetes, which can spike up the pregnancy-related complications. The age at which women choose to have their first child has also been increasing lately. Rampant C- Sections also emerged as a contender to raise the bar for maternity death rates.
Incorporating the best practices in Preconception Health & Prenatal Care in pregnancy-related care is crucial to reduce complications that could lead to death. In 2012, the National Partnership for Maternal Safety; the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists; and several dozen community and health organizations came together on "bundles of care" recommendations that would help in ascertaining and propagating best treatments to conditions like postpartum hemorrhage. The Alliance for Innovation in Maternal Health program assures quality improvement toolkits, maternal early warning systems and other ways to help and guide quality improvement efforts in maternal health care. Health care access and affordability are crucial in preventing pregnancy-related complications and death.
Rear Admiral Wanda Barfield, the director of the CDC's Division of Reproductive Health Services, expressed optimism in review committees changing the trend and reversing the maternity death rate quotients soon. Here's hoping that Barfield's optimistic views turn out to be well-founded.