Category Archives: Maternal Health in the US

Our ongoing article and interview series follows maternal health and mortality news in the United States.

The CDC Releases Newly Updated Maternal Death Statistics in Over a Decade

United States maternal death statistics that have been used for over a decade have finally been updated. The CDC released 2018 national and state maternal death estimates last week. The numbers have increased dramatically and still remain the worst of any developed country in the world.

Currently, the maternal mortality rate (MMR) is 17.4 deaths per 100,000 live births. In 2007, the MMR was 12.7 deaths per 100,000 live births. The CDC says the MMR increase largely comes from the new data and collection requirements now on standard death certificates. Starting in 2003, a checkbox requirement was placed on the U.S. Standard Certificate of Death in order to accurately record maternal deaths. The checkboxes are:

  • Not pregnant within past year
  • Pregnant at time of death
  • Not pregnant, but pregnant 43 days to 1 year before death
  • Not pregnant, but pregnant within 42 days of death
  • Unknown if pregnant within the past year
Continue reading The CDC Releases Newly Updated Maternal Death Statistics in Over a Decade

Woman Dies From Pregnancy-Related Complications After Waiting Hours in Emergency Room

You have probably heard the story of Tashonna Ward, the 25-year-old Milwaukee woman who recently spent hours in the emergency room due to shortness of breath and died after waiting too long. Ward was told that she would spend between two to six hours in wait time at the ER according to distressing posts on her Facebook page. Preliminary tests were performed on Ward and showed she had cardiomegaly, an enlarged heart, but she was never admitted despite having chest pains and tightness of breath.

After waiting 2 hours and 29 minutes in the ER, Tashonna Ward and her sister decided to go to urgent care. She never made it. She passed out en route and collapsed and died in the urgent care parking lot. The cause of death: hypertensive cardiovascular disease.

While many reports mentioned the emergency room wait times that led to Ward’s death, a few have reported that she developed cardiomegaly due to pregnancy complications from a miscarriage in March of 2019. In fact, the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Report states that the “decedent did develop cardiomegaly during pregnancy.”

“decedent did develop cardiomegaly during pregnancy.”

Milwaukee County Medical Examiner Report from January 14, 2020
Continue reading Woman Dies From Pregnancy-Related Complications After Waiting Hours in Emergency Room

9 Maternal Health Stories Worth Reading This Weekend

Now that 2020 is in full swing I decided to catch up on the many maternal health and mortality articles that were published during the holiday season. There has been a lot of stellar reporting that you might have missed. I did. Here is a compilation of some of the articles I found the most compelling starting with a wrap-up post, 7 things I learned from spending a year reporting on mothers in Alabama,  by Anna Claire Volle about the excellent year-long reporting she did on mothers in Alabama.  I particularly liked 

Black Maternal Health

[Self] Congresswoman Alma Adams on Why She Co-Founded the Black Maternal Health Caucus: Alma Adams is the congresswoman for my district. I am proud of the bi-partisan work she has been doing to help curb black maternal mortality. In this interview in Self’s Black Maternal Health series, Adams talks about the reasons why she is a co-founder of the Black Maternal Health Caucus.

[NBC News] Extremely alarming’: New report addresses maternal mortality in the U.S.: Taraneh Shirazian, director of Global Women’s Health at NYU’s College of Global Public Health and president of Saving Mothers discusses on Morning Joe how maternal mortality has decreased globally, but in the United States maternal deaths have increased particularly for black moms.

[The Hill] Reproductive revolution: Ending black maternal health inequities in 2020: Tracey Lewis-Elligan, an associate professor & chair of Sociology at DePaul University, details the ways in which black mortality can be decreased starting this year. She highlights some of the work of doulas and midwives in the fight against black maternal mortality.

Continue reading 9 Maternal Health Stories Worth Reading This Weekend

5 Things to Know About Maternal Health This Week

The CDC released a new report late last week, Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Pregnancy-Related Deaths — United States, 2007–2016, that reiterates the maternal mortality disparity between black mothers and American Indian/Alaska Native women and white, Hispanic, and Asian/Pacific Islander women. The numbers now seem worse than we originally thought. For example, black women who are college educated die in larger numbers than white women with less than a high school diploma. And, even in states where overall maternal mortality is low, black women still die in larger numbers.

In addition, the CDC acknowledges that “black women experience earlier deterioration of health because of the cumulative impact of exposure to psychosocial, economic, and environmental stressors.” In other words, a contributor to maternal death rates among black women is structural racism in healthcare settings.

Continue reading 5 Things to Know About Maternal Health This Week

Joint Commission Creates New Standards of Care to Curb Maternal Mortality

One of the leading causes of maternal mortality in the United States is hemorrhaging. In fact, according to the CDC hemorrhaging accounts for 11.2% of pregnancy-related deaths. Based on these increasing numbers since 1986 the Joint Commission, the country’s leading accreditation organization for hospitals, has created 13 new standards for perinatal safety for hospitals to properly care for women who hemorrhage during or after delivery. These standards were designed specifically to prevent, recognize and treat, as well as evaluate patients for transfer to critical care for not only hemorrhage but also severe hypertension/preeclampsia.

Continue reading Joint Commission Creates New Standards of Care to Curb Maternal Mortality