Despite our years of technological advancement and study of the human anatomy,
childbirth is still considered extremely dangerous in the United States.
According to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC), more than 600 American women lose their lives due to complications
that arise either during pregnancy or the actual process of delivery.
By other estimates, nearly 60,000+ other women will experience severe
health complications during childbirth that require hospitalization or
other treatment methods to correct.
In comparison to other countries in the developed world, the U.S. is one
of the worst when it comes to medical safety for pregnant women and new
mothers. In fact, the mortality rate related to pregnancy deaths in America
is three times higher than that in Canada, and six times higher than that
in Norway, Sweden, and Finland. While so many other countries are seeing
these rates drop over time, it has actually spiked in America since 2000.
It all begs the question, “What is going on with maternal care in
Better Care Would Prevent More Deaths
It is impossible to pass up the high pregnancy and childbirth mortality
rate in the United States to poor luck, bad health, or simply connected
to the country having a high population when the CDC itself has stated
that many of the deaths should be entirely preventable. Indeed, it believes
around 60% of childbirth and pregnancy deaths would not happen if hospitals
maintained better conditions, doctors received thorough training, and
healthcare in the country overall was improved. In an almost contradictory
way, the CDC cites evidence of extremely low infant mortality rates in
the country, improved over decades of care and research, as the same evidence
that shows pregnant women and new mothers could and should be getting
Many pregnancy-related deaths are linked to:
- Blood clots
- Heart failure
While all of these conditions are severe, none should be so dangerous that
mortality rates noticeably rise. With preparation in the delivery room
and attentive obstetrician care, many of the worst complications should
be avoidable, or at least predictable enough to stem.
Federal Funding Does Not Prefer a Mother’s Care
Part of the problem might be linked to how our country is spending its
tax dollars. It is undoubtedly important to promote the health and safety
of children and newborns, but it is arguably just as important to do the
same for pregnant women and new mothers. The Maternal-Fetal Medicine Units
Network is a federally-run program dedicated to researching and addressing
health issues that infants and pregnant women face. And yet, only 11%
of its work is dedicated solely to helping mothers. Overall, this accounts
for about 6% of its funding.
CDC Takes an In-Depth Look into the Problem
With reason to believe that the American mortality rate caused by maternal
and pregnant complications will worsen before it gets better, the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention recently conducted a subsequent study
into hospital care that could be a factor. It established that there were
at least 20 commonplace yet preventable errors that could increase the
likelihood of a maternal fatality.
Some of these errors are:
- Inept practitioners
- Poor communication between staff members
- Low hygiene quality of stations
- Decision not to consult a specialist
- No standardized care protocol
- Lack of necessary safety equipment or tools
In its research across four states, the CDC found that it was typical for
a case of maternal death to arise or include four of the 20+ recognized
errors. Taking the time to fix these oversights could save countless lives
each year. Or, if the CDC estimates are to be used, around 360 lives annually.
New Efforts to Improve Maternal Care
Some countries are using federal or parliamentary regulations to ensure
that maternal deaths are researched thoroughly each and every time. The
United Kingdom has reported success, at least in gaining life-saving knowledge,
after introducing its own such efforts. In the United States, though,
states have to make such programs on their own.
In 2017, only 26 states have started or established campaigns to research
the how and why of maternal or pregnancy-related deaths. Philadelphia
is actually the only city that has done this on its own. Congress members
from both sides of the political spectrum are also starting to take notice
and take action. There is currently a bill in the works called the Preventing
Maternal Deaths Act of 2017, which would push federal funding towards
setting up state-run panels and research groups.
These efforts are only starting points, though; starting points that should
have been established long ago. Until the government uses its power and
oversight to regulate the treatment pregnant women and new mothers receive,
it is up to individuals to take action if something goes wrong. Shrager,
Spivey & Sachs and our Philadelphia medical malpractice attorneys
are here to help families suffering from a loss caused by the negligence
of a medical facility or practitioner seek justice and compensation.
Contact us today to learn about our experience and your legal options, all during
a free initial consultation with our team.