The Grapevine

Why Is US The Most Dangerous Developed Nation To Give Birth In?

A new investigation titled "Deadly Deliveries" has found the United States is the most dangerous place to give birth in the developed world.

Led by USA Today, the investigation shed light on preventable maternal deaths and injuries that occurred due to poor practices in hospitals.

A majority of women are able to go through childbirth in the country in a safe manner. But the numbers indicate a steady rise in women who either die or experience severe injuries, often due to negligence rather than health complications.

According to a report published in 2016, the rate of maternal death during or shortly after childbirth in the United States increased by 27 percent between 2000 and 2014. And with the exception of California, every state in the country has seen a rise in maternal death.

The new investigation, conducted over a period of four years, estimated that more than 50,000 mothers are severely injured during or after childbirth each year while around 700 mothers lose their lives.

"Experts say that about 50 percent of the deaths of women from childbirth-related causes could be prevented if they were given better medical care," said Alison Young, an investigative reporter at USA Today.

"[That is] a really surprising thing given that we're one of the wealthiest countries in the world and we spend so much on medical care. We're not just talking about the women who die, we're talking about 50,000 U.S. women who are suffering life-altering harms."

The report noted hemorrhage (excessive bleeding) and severe hypertension to be the two most common causes for injuries and fatalities related to birth.

In one case, maternity officials from the University of Utah Hospital were shocked to find out that their patients were hemorrhaging at three times the national rate. 

But high-risk mothers were not to blame according to Dr. Erin Clark, the director for maternal-fetal medicine at the hospital. The problem had to do with poor responses from the staff. "We diagnosed hemorrhages too late," she said, "and we didn’t treat them fast enough or aggressively enough."

It is crucial to monitor blood loss and blood pressure levels of a woman after delivery. To prevent stroke, medication should be administered within an hour of noticing severely high blood pressure. But these important signs are subject to negligence in many cases, according to the report. 

"Women are left to bleed until their organs shut down. Their high blood pressure goes untreated until they suffer strokes," USA Today noted. "They die of preventable blood clots and untreated infections. Survivors can be left paralyzed or unable to have more children."

To solve this problem, hospitals should implement strict standards of care and safety, a step that has proven to be effective in California. The state also introduced "safety bundles" for pregnancy and childbirth, which helped reduce maternal death rates by 64 percent.