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 America?”
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 better care.
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.