African-American Mothers Are Four Times More Likely to Die Due to Childbirth Complications Than White Mothers
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Having a baby is supposed to be a joyful experience, not a scary one. For a staggering number of women and families in the United States, however, childbirth is an incredibly risky process. Among all developed countries in the world, the U.S. has the highest maternal death rate.
U.S. Has the Highest Maternal Death Rate of Any Developed Country
Every year, between 700 and 900 mothers die during or shortly after giving birth in the United States. This statistic means that for every 100,000 live births, 26.4 women die. For every woman who dies, another 70 come close to dying. According to health experts, the vast majority of these deaths are preventable. Additionally, African-American mothers are four times more likely to die due to childbirth complications than white mothers.
In the rest of the developed world, the maternal death rate is much lower. In other developed countries, the average rate is 12 deaths per 100,000 live births.
Reasons for High Maternal Death Rate
Health experts say there are a number of reasons that could explain why the U.S. has such a high maternal death rate.
- Lack of affordable health care – Unlike most developed countries, the U.S. lacks a comprehensive universal health care plan. When people are too poor to afford health insurance, they are unlikely to receive high-quality maternity care.
- Nonexistent federally mandated paid maternity leave – Also unlike the majority of developed countries in the world, the United States lacks any federal mandates requiring employers to offer paid maternity leave following childbirth. In some cases, mothers must return to work almost immediately after giving birth, which can lead to serious health complications for mothers and babies.
One report points out that mothers in other developed countries receive a larger amount of support than mothers in the United States. Mothers in other countries have access to social services that simply don’t exist in the United States. Although there are currently two paid maternity leave bills pending in Congress, they have received little support.
- Advanced Maternal Age Pregnancy – In the U.S. and other parts of the world, women are also giving birth and having children at older ages than previously expected. Studies show that childbirth and pregnancy are significantly more dangerous for women after passing 40 years of age.
- Overall unhealthy population – The United States also has the highest obesity rate of any developed country. When mothers are obese during pregnancy, they have a higher risk of developing serious pregnancy complications. Therefore, they are more likely to experience complications during childbirth, and they are more likely to require a cesarean section (C-section), which increases their risk of experiencing a complication.
- Higher C-section rate – Compared to other developed countries, the U.S. has a higher C-section rate. While every birth has risks, C-sections involve a major surgery, which puts both the mother and baby at a higher risk of experiencing a complication.
In other cases, as noted in multiple media reports, women say they were completely ignored or brushed off by doctors when they raised concerns. According to an NPR report, one woman experienced eight weeks of consistent, unusual bleeding. She went to the emergency room, which sent her to her obstetrician. At the ER, a nurse told her she thought the emergency room doctor just wanted the woman to “go home.” The obstetrician told her she was most likely just getting her first menstrual period after childbirth and sent her home.
When she later returned with more bleeding, she nearly died in the doctor’s office due to hemorrhage. Eventually, doctors had to perform an emergency hysterectomy, which revealed she had lost half of the blood volume in her body. According to medical experts, a basic ultrasound would have revealed the source of her bleeding, and proper medical care could have saved her from undergoing a hysterectomy. As NPR reports, “Though rare, it could’ve been detected earlier with a scan and treated before it became life-threatening.”
Top 5 Deadliest Complications of Childbirth
According to NPR, the five deadliest complications of childbirth include infection, blood clots, pregnancy-induced hypertension, heart conditions, and blood loss. In many cases that NPR reported on, women who experienced these complications could have been saved if their doctors had merely provided timely care.
Instead, newborn mothers who were ignored or brushed off by their doctor ended up dying, leaving grieving families and newborn children behind. In cases where women survived, many were forced to undergo complete hysterectomies, ending their fertility and often leaving them with numerous complications. As NPR reports, “…obstetricians and nurses strongly tend towards expecting the best and not the worst.”
The reality, however, is that always expecting the best means health care professionals will inevitably miss worst-case scenarios. When they do occur, patients die. Mostly young, otherwise healthy newborn mothers unexpectedly die when doctors and nurses either ignore their concerns or deny them the medical care they need — and sometimes beg for.
Currently, some estimates say up to 80,000 mothers each year experience life-threatening complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Experts say bringing these numbers down would save countless lives.
At the New York Medical Malpractice Law Firm of Jonathan C. Reiter, we believe people should be held accountable for their actions when they cause a wrongful death. Call today to speak with an experienced medical malpractice attorney that understands what families go through when they lose a loved one in an accident or due to medical malpractice.
NYC Medical Malpractice Lawyer Jonathan C. Reiter
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