Addressing the American Maternal Mortality Crisis February 14, 2024.

Addressing the American Maternal Mortality Crisis

Childbirth is meant to be an exciting, life-changing event for the family welcoming a new baby into the world. But this beautiful time can be overshadowed by medical issues that put the mother at serious risk. Unfortunately, many women die during childbirth.

Below, we explore why the United States has more maternal deaths than any other developed country worldwide, why these rates are higher for Black women, and how families who have lost a loved one to America’s maternal mortality crisis can get justice.

U.S. Leads In Maternal Deaths Worldwide 

The Commonwealth Fund organized data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), which determined that out of every 100,000 births: 

  1. 19 white women die in the U.S.
  2. 56 Black women die in the U.S.
  3. 24 women overall die in the U.S.
  4. 14 women die in New Zealand
  5. 9 women die in Canada
  6. 7 women die in the U.K.
  7. 3 women die in Japan
  8. 2 women die in the Netherlands

The data makes it clear that women of all races have much higher mortality rates in America than any other country and that Black women suffer the highest number of maternal deaths.

The Disparity In Maternal Outcomes for Black Women 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Black women in America are three times more likely to die during pregnancy than white women. The disparity largely comes from underlying racial biases that continue to permeate healthcare settings which prevent people in marginalized communities -- especially Black and Brown communities -- from receiving adequate healthcare.

This disparity can also be seen across the board and not just with birthing mothers. The American Bar Association references a 2005 study from the National Academy of Medicine that reports that Black patients suffering from heart disease consistently received lower-quality, cheaper, and older treatments than white people with the same condition and symptoms. Black patients were also less likely to be offered angiography and coronary bypass and are often discharged too early from the hospital after receiving treatment.

Top Risk Factors for Maternal Mortality

Understanding the top causes of maternal mortality and pregnancy-related death is key to developing strategies for prevention. Per the CDC:

  1. 23% of mothers die due to untreated mental illness, suicide, and substance use
  2. 22% of mothers die from heart problems
  3. 14% of mothers due to hemorrhaging during birth
  4. 9% die from infection
  5. 9% die from blood clots
  6. 7% die due to high blood pressure

How to Prevent Maternal Deaths

While not every maternal death can be prevented, the CDC estimates that about 4 out of 5 can. The World Health Organization offers a few examples of how potentially fatal complications like excessive bleeding and pre-eclampsia can be avoided with proper prenatal and birth care:

  1. Educating mothers on proper hygiene practices following childbirth and how to identify infections quickly can help eliminate maternal deaths due to the untreated spread of bacteria.
  2. Seizures and strokes that can result from pre-eclampsia can be managed by early detection of the condition and administration of certain medications to lower the risk of seizures or induce labor.
  3. Medications can also help reduce or stop bleeding if administered immediately after birth. Mothers should be routinely monitored for signs of hemorrhaging and should be given instructions on signs that postpartum bleeding is too heavy and requires medical intervention.
  4. Access to quality prenatal care from unbiased medical providers can detect potential complications quickly, offering time for mothers to seek treatment before they become potentially life-threatening.
  5. Adequate review of a patient’s medical history prior to birth can help medical providers anticipate problems and have treatments on standby, such as blood transfusions of the proper type for patients who take anticoagulant medication (blood thinners).

What to Do If Your Family Was Impacted By a Maternal Death

If your family lost a loved one during birth, you may be wondering why it happened and what might have been done to prevent it. The hurt can be even more compounded if the baby was also lost.

At The Mellino Law Firm, we understand the devastating impact that maternal death has on families and have dedicated our practice to helping people like you recover emotionally and financially after medical negligence robs them of what should have been a joyous time welcoming new life into the world.

Contact us today to schedule your free initial consultation to learn more about how we can help you by calling (440) 333-3800 or filling out our short online form and we’ll get in touch with you as soon as possible.