Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Rising Maternal Mortality Rate Causes Alarm, Calls For Action

"Each day in the U.S., two women die of problems related to pregnancy or childbirth. The numbers have been rising, for reasons that are not entirely clear."

"Nationally, the rate, defined as deaths from obstetrical causes within one year of giving birth, rose from 7.6 per 100,000 to 13.3 per 100,000." (emphasis mine)

This excellent article discusses the rising problem of maternal mortality, and some of the possible causes including: the rising c-section rate, increasing use of medical labor induction, and the changing profile of American mothers (more older women having babies).

The problem is baffling for experts, because high death rates are common in poor countries where women don't have access to adequate prenatal care. The United States, however, spends the most money on health care, yet has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality.

"Though the U.S. spends more per birth than any other nation, maternal mortality is higher here than in 40 other industrialized countries, including Croatia, Hungary and Macedonia, and is double that of Canada and much of Western Europe."

"That the United States is backsliding in this most basic of healthcare measures has triggered attention and alarm in medical circles. In January, the Joint Commission, an independent organization that accredits and certifies healthcare organizations and programs, issued a "sentinel event alert" warning of the rising maternal mortality rates.

"In March, the human rights organization Amnesty International released its own report, 'Deadly Delivery,' calling for sweeping changes in maternal healthcare in the U.S."

"The California Department of Public Health has commissioned a statewide review of medical charts in maternal death cases to identify reasons for the rise and seek ways to improve."

"'Mothers shouldn't die in childbirth,' said Dr. Elliott Main, chief of obstetrics at Sutter Health and director of the ongoing California review. The trend, he said, may signal a much larger problem with U.S. maternal healthcare."

Here are some more articles on the subject:


  1. You can find out why some women are dying by going to to look at the Safe Motherhood Quilt Project. Take a look at Virtual Quilt to about 200 women's stories. Go to for some articles on maternal mortality in the US and an explanation of why experts don't know why the death rate has risen. Short answer: the US doesn't have a system that requires complete and accurate counting, state by state.

  2. Everything I've read so far on the subject says that the reporting issue can't account for the mortality problem entirely, and that there are other issues at play. Thanks for the information! I'll check it out :)