Tag Archives: United States

Artist Puts Spotlight on Maternal Mortality and Obstetric Abuse in America

Michelle Hartney
Michelle Hartney

Michelle Hartney has been an artist and activist for maternal health and obstetrics since the birth of her daughter and son: Shine and Seamus. While she says both of her deliveries were empowering, they were also very troubling prompting Hartney to create awareness through art about the high maternal mortality rate in the United States as well as obstetric abuse that she says is all too common for women across the country.

“I was shocked to discover that the way American women give birth now is rooted in a past that is riddled with misogyny, racism, and abuse. As I was reading as much as I could about the history of obstetrics in America, I was filling up my sketchbook with ideas and was flooded with visuals and topics that I wanted to make work about.”

For Hartney’s second delivery with her son, her doctor did not deliver her daughter, but she was instead assisted by a resident who wasn’t going into the field of obstetrics. She ended up fighting with the resident and a nurse about wanting to deliver her baby on her side; an option previously agreed upon by she and her doctor. Instead, they forcefully told her to “lie on her back” to deliver. Since Hartney had a doula who advocated for her during childbirth she was able to deliver on her side in four pushes, but the experience was difficult for her to handle.

Continue reading Artist Puts Spotlight on Maternal Mortality and Obstetric Abuse in America

Featured Video: #WhatIsPossible for Global Maternal Health?

Today 800 women will die during childbirth from largely preventable causes. Most of those women live in low- and middle-income countries, but some mothers will also not make it through delivery right here in the United States. Most people don’t realize that the United States has the highest maternal mortality rate of any developed country in the world. Our MMR isn’t as high as many sub-Saharan countries (where maternal mortality is the highest), but we are still losing too many mothers – both here and around the world.

Every Mother Counts has put together the following film asking the question: What is Possible? We are thrilled to see our friends Midwives for Haiti and Jennie Joseph’s Commonsense Birth featured in this video. They both do so much for mothers.

Watch and share!

[Photos] B&W Historic Photos of Public #Breastfeeding in the US #WBW2014

Long ago in Internet years (about seven years ago) I was a staunch breastfeeding advocate and researcher (still am!). Back then I wanted to get to the bottom of why nursing in public was such a big issue in the United States. So, I started digging in the photo archives of the Library of Congress for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of hours and discovered through black and white, historic photos that breastfeeding in public hasn’t always been a problem in the United States.

Last week I was reminded about all of my research when during the #EveryNewborn Twitter chat Kenyan Social Good Moms correspondent Maryanne Waweru Wanyama mentioned that Kenyans do not have a problem with public nursing. It’s true. The many, many times I have been to Africa I have never witnessed a problem with women breastfeeding in public; no disgusted glares or reprimands. And yet, here in the United States public breastfeeding always draws controversy.

For World Breastfeeding Week I wanted to revisit the historic photos I found years ago in the Library of Congress archives that show nursing in public hasn’t always been an issue like it is today.  When public perception about breastfeeding changed in the United States, I still don’t know. It’s definitely an issue worth pursuing.

a) Part of Social Hour audience at Shafter Camp (handwritten on reverse); b) Todd’s favorite picture of an “Okie Family” in Shafter F.S.A. Camp. Nursing babies was the usual thing at camp “Socials.” (typed and attached to reverse)
Part of Social Hour audience at Shafter Camp (handwritten on reverse) b) Todd’s favorite picture of an “Okie Family” in Shafter F.S.A. Camp. Nursing babies was the usual thing at camp “Socials.” (typed and attached to reverse)

 

Drought refugees from Oklahoma camping by the roadside. They hope to work in the cotton fields. There are seven in family. Blythe, California. LC-USF34- 009666-E
Drought refugees from Oklahoma camping by the roadside. They hope to work in the cotton fields. There are seven in family. Blythe, California. LC-USF34- 009666-E.  Lange, Dorothea, photographer
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Colored mother and child, Little Rock, Arkansas. Note: I am keeping captions as they appear in the Library of Congress archives. LC-USF3301-006023-M5; Shahn, Ben, 1898-1969, photographer
Colored sharecropper family living in Little Rock, Arkansas (same woman as above). Note: I am keeping captions as they appear in the Library of Congress archives. LC-USF33- 006023-M4; Shahn, Ben, 1898-1969, photographer
Colored sharecropper family living in Little Rock, Arkansas (same woman as above)
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This is a mother who is traveling from Louisville, Kentucky to Memphis, Tennessee on a Greyhound bus. Here, she is waiting in the Chattanooga bus terminal and breastfeeding in public in September 1943. Photographer: Esther Bubley, a pioneer in female photojournalism, who chronicled people’s daily lives for the Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Collection (FSA-OWI).

 

Coal miner's wife and child. Pursglove, West Virginia. Wolcott, Marion Post, 1910-1990, photographer. LC-USF34- 050320-E
Coal miner’s wife and child. Pursglove, West Virginia. Wolcott, Marion Post, 1910-1990, photographer; LC-USF34- 050320-E

 

Scene in New Orleans, Louisiana; Shahn, Ben, 1898-1969, photographer; LC-USF33- 006099-M2
Scene in New Orleans, Louisiana; Shahn, Ben, 1898-1969,  LC-USF33- 006099-M2

 

Location:Greenville, MS, US Date taken:1937 Photographer:Alfred Eisenstaedt Time Life Magazine
Location: Greenville, MS, US
Date taken: 1937
Photographer: Alfred Eisenstaedt
Time Life Magazine

 

Migrant mother and child in tent home. Harlingen, Texas; Lee, Russell, 1903-1986, photographer; LC-USF34- 032200-D
Migrant mother and child in tent home. Harlingen, Texas; Lee, Russell, 1903-1986, photographer; LC-USF34- 032200-D

This post will be updated from time to time. There are more photos I have found from the archives and I will share them here. 

Also, see a recent post I wrote: [Photos in Black and White] Historical Look at Child and Newborn Health in the US.

 

Why Congress Needs to Pass the Maternal Health Accountability Act of 2014

The United States has a maternal mortality problem. For the past 25 years the rate of maternal mortality has increased dramatically in America. In fact, the United States is one of eight countries including Greece, Afghanistan and sub-Saharan African countries where the number of mothers who die during childbirth is on the rise. Now each year, on average, 800 American women will lose their lives giving birth. Last year 1200 women died during childbirth in the United States, up 500 deaths since 2005.

To put this crisis into perspective globally, the United States has double the maternal mortality rate of Canada and three times the maternal mortality rate of France. When comparing maternal mortality rates with the Nordic countries it just becomes even more embarrassing.  What’s worse, the United States has the highest maternal mortality rate of any industrialized country in the world.

See rates and statistics in Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 – 2013

What is especially disheartening about these statistics is doctors and researchers are baffled about why many mothers are dying during childbirth when they are afforded access to the best medical care in the world. Some point to the increased rates of diabetes and hypertension in overweight or obese women as reasons for the increased rate of maternal mortality. Others blame healthcare disparities and the rate of older women who are now having children. The problem is there is no definitive science on why more mothers are dying in the United States than any other developed country in the world.

What experts do know is that African-American women are three times more likely to die during childbirth. A recent study conducted by the California Department of Health found that the maternal mortality rate for African-American women was 46 per 1000,000 live births. For Asian and Caucasian women, the rate was 13 per 100,000 live births between 2003 – 2008.

“African-American people generally have worse health outcomes than Caucasian people…but not to this degree, not four-fold,” said Conrad Chao, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of california, San Francisco.

Timoria McQueenTimoria McQueen, an African-American woman, suffered a postpartum hemorrhage after the birth of her daughter. She subsequently underwent a three-hour life-saving surgery to survive. Now, McQueen is a staunch maternal health advocate pushing to amend Health and Human Services’ Title V Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant Program with the proposed Maternal Health Accountability Act of 2014 (H.R.4216).

The Maternal Health Accountability Act of 2014, if passed, would require:

(1) mandatory reporting to the state department of health by health care providers and other entities of pregnancy-related deaths;

(2) establishment of a state maternal mortality review committee on pregnancy-related deaths occurring within such state;

(3) implementation and use of the comprehensive case abstraction form by such committee to preserve the uniformity of the information collected;

(4) annual public disclosure of committee findings; and

(5) collect, analyze, and report to the Secretary cases of maternal morbidity

The Act was introduced in the House in March 2014, but has stalled in Congress since.

How You Can Raise Your Voice

To find out how to contact your local Congress person and support H.R.4216: The Maternal Health Accountability Act of 2014 click here