Given the amount of money that the United States spends on healthcare every year, it might be easy to assume that Americans would have some of the best medical care in the world. Yet a USA TODAY study found that 700 women die every year while giving birth in our country, and an additional 50,000 face serious injuries.
According to another study published in The Lancet in 2016, 26 mothers die out of every 100,000 births in the United States. Only 4 other countries with high-income levels have a rate above 15 maternal deaths for every 100,000 births.
Even more disturbing, the number of maternal fatalities has been increasing in the United States. Other developed countries, including France, Germany and England, have seen a decrease in mothers lost to such complications.
We must ask ourselves: What actions are being taken in their healthcare systems that are not being practiced in the United States?
An Ounce of Prevention
While pregnancy is often a joyous occasion, it is also a potentially dangerous time for mothers and infants. The health of both mother and child must be monitored carefully, and in too many American hospitals, this isn’t happening.
The USA TODAY investigation examined facilities in Pennsylvania, New York and North and South Carolina. Among their key findings, was that healthcare providers must be alert to small changes that can make a big difference in the health of mothers. In particular, it is crucial to monitor blood pressure and blood loss during childbirth.
The report cited medical professionals who stated that 93% of women who bled to death after giving birth could have been saved if care providers had been alert to their blood loss. Additionally, 60% of women who had a life-threatening blood pressure condition called preeclampsia could have lived with more careful monitoring of their vital signs.
States of Safety
The USA TODAY report also compiled data regarding states with the highest and lowest number of maternal deaths after giving birth.
States with less than 10 deaths per 1000,000 births included:
States with more than 40 deaths per 100,000 births included:
The report noted that California has instituted strict guidelines for caring for the health of mothers during the birthing process. It took only 6 years, from 2009 to 2015, for these safety precautions to decrease new mothers’ mortality rate by half. These standards ensure that careful attention is paid to the mother’s health, along with that of the infant.
In California, 4 mothers die for every 100,000 births, which is the lowest rate in the nation. This drastic improvement has been accomplished by taking simple measures, such as having stated procedures and checklists that healthcare providers must follow during every birth.
California serves as an example of how it isn’t difficult to save lives when these rules become part of a hospital’s culture. For new parents choosing a facility where they wish to have their child, it is vital to make sure that similar measures are in place to care for the mother’s health as well as the infants. In critical times, that attention to detail can be a matter of life and death.