U.S. Taking Steps Towards Reducing Maternal Death Rate
The United States has the highest rate of maternal deaths compared to other developed countries, losing 700-900 women to pregnancy-associated deaths every year, while 65,000 nearly die. Women of color in the U.S are at higher risk of danger, dying at three to four times the rate of white mothers. American maternal deaths are treated as a private tragedy rather than as a public health catastrophe. Meanwhile, the vast majority of developed countries inspect each case of maternal death in order to improve the system leading to drastically lower maternal death rates.
In the United States, it is the individual states responsibility to assess and handle maternal death rates. Most states do not have committees to oversee cases. Eighteen states never even study maternal deaths, let alone have a committee to evaluate them. Deaths of the mothers are frequently blamed on the mother’s lifestyle choices. However, the unquestionable reality is, states are avoiding examination & hospitals and health professionals are disregarding essential practices known to avoid tragedy. “Fewer than 20 states that have panels studying mothers’ deaths identify medical care flaws such as delayed diagnoses, inadequate treatments, or the failures of hospitals to follow basic safety measures”. The practice of blaming women for their own deaths while under care can no longer go on if we want to eliminate disparities in maternal health outcomes.
“The death of a mother in childbirth cannot be a silent event. We desperately need a national committee to track trends in causes of death and to find any human error that might be corrected to prevent another tragedy.”
– Kristina Adams Waldorf, MD, Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology, University of Washington
However, serious changes may finally be underway to save the lives of new mothers. The U.S. Senate made a massive step towards providing women safer birth experiences by passing the ‘Preventing Maternal Deaths Act of 2018’ by unanimous consent. This bill asserts that the Department of Health and Human Services will establish a program to make grants in order to:
- Establish and sustain a maternal mortality review committee to review relevant information.
- Ensure that the state department of health develops a plan for ongoing health care provider education in order to improve the quality of maternal care, disseminate findings, and implement recommendations.
- Disseminate a case abstraction form to aid information collection for HHS review and preserve its uniformity.
- Review pregnancy-related and pregnancy-associated deaths (maternal deaths).
- Provide for the public disclosure of information included in state reports.
If this bill is successfully passed into law, hospitals, health centers, and health professionals will be required to comply with mandatory reporting. Voluntary reporting will be available for the family of lost mothers. Each case of maternal death reported will then be summarized and reviewed by a committee. Let us hope this bill is passed and the U.S begins to save and sustain the health of mothers during pregnancy, childbirth, and in the postpartum period and eliminates disparities in maternal health outcomes.