New mothers are dying at rates that — by all accounts — shouldn’t be happening in the United States.
The statistics, however, are astounding — if not outright horrifying. While maternal deaths have been plunging in developed nations for decades, they’ve been steadily rising in the United States. In fact, some experts say that they’ve actually doubled — and many more new mothers are seriously injured during childbirth or shortly after, despite the fact that the United States spends more on maternal care than most other countries.
Around 29 new mothers in America will die out of every 100,000 live births. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), a total of 800 mothers die every year — while another 50,000 will suffer serious injuries during or shortly after childbirth.
The news is even worse if you happen to be African-American. While Hispanic women are actually in less danger during childbirth than whites, African-American women are facing a risk that is 4 times that of the average white woman when they go into labor.
Studies further indicate that many of these deaths — particularly those among African-American mothers — are preventable. While there’s no definitive answer as to why, there are some factors that lead to the idea that racial bias may be at play:
- Pregnant African-Americans may not receive early prenatal care at the same rates as other racial groups.
- More African-Americans receive treatment at low-income hospitals, where the quality of care can be questionable. The quality of the hospital is believed to be behind nearly 50 percent of the severe injuries African-American women experience during childbirth.
- African-American women may not even be offered the same treatments as their lighter-skinned counterparts. Whether consciously or not, racial bias may affect what steps a doctor takes to ensure the safety of the mother.
- Prenatal insurance is spotty at best for many women — those eligible for public health benefits may have limited access to medical care for themselves even if their pregnancy is covered. That means conditions that could be affecting the mother’s ability to survive go untreated.
It’s often difficult for a family or woman to know if her injuries were real negligence or just unavoidable. Anyone who has experienced a serious injury or lost a loved one right after a delivery should consider seeking legal advice about their right to know what happened and why.
Source: WebMD, “Death by Birth: Bearing the Burden of Maternal Mortality,” Brenda Goodman, MA, Nov. 16, 2017