Category Archives: Maternal Health in the US

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

Why Family Planning Matters for Maternal Deaths and Child Survival

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Contraception empowers women to plan the number of children they will have.

Tizta Tilahun Degfie, African Population and Health Research Center

Family planning improves child survival and reduces maternal deaths. But the uptake of family planning in Africa is only 33%, nearly half the world average of 64%. The contraceptive prevalence rate in African countries is considerably low despite an increase in demand.

Niger has one of the highest fertility rates globally. Women of reproductive age have, on average, eight children. Niger has a maternal mortality ratio of 553 per 100,000 live births and an under-five mortality rate of 104 per 1000 live births. Mauritius has the lowest child mortality rate in Africa at 12 per 1,000 live births.

In Niger, 13% of children under five years die from various illnesses. The country is one of the top five that account for half of these deaths in the world.

The low provision of family planning across sub-Saharan Africa is cited as one of the main reasons for the region’s high maternal mortality rates. A lack of family planning leads to unintended pregnancies and often means that women deliver their babies with very low skilled assistance. This, in turn, pushes up the rate of newborn deaths.

Access to family planning services, particularly in developing countries, should be improved.

Continue reading Why Family Planning Matters for Maternal Deaths and Child Survival

Recent Thoughts on Global Maternal Health

As an ardent supporter and advocate for maternal health, I am always happy to share my thoughts about the issue with a wider audience.

I recently shared my thoughts with Merck for Mothers,  a 10-year $500 million initiative supporting women during pregnancy and childbirth.

If you would like to support organizations that work on maternal health and reduces maternal mortality look at a list of 41 NGOs across the globe.

Despite Differences in Culture, US and India Fall Short in Childbirth in Similar Ways

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Woman in labor, shown with monitors. 

Neel Shah, Harvard Medical School

After eight years of practicing obstetrics and researching childbirth in the United States, I know as well as anyone that the American maternal health system could be better. Our way of childbirth is the costliest in the world. Our health outcomes, from mortality rates to birth weights, are far, far from the best.

The reasons we fall short are not obvious. In medicine, providing more care is often mistaken for providing better care. In childbirth the relationship between more and better is complicated. Texan obstetricians, when compared to their counterparts in neighboring New Mexico, are 50% more likely to intervene on the baby’s behalf by performing a cesarean section. Nonetheless, Texas babies still have a lower survival rate than New Mexican babies.

I long assumed that our most puzzling American health care failures were idiosyncrasies–unique consequences of American culture, geography, and politics. But a trip to India for the 2017 Human Rights in Childbirth meeting led me to a humbling realization: when it comes to childbirth, both countries fall short in surprisingly similar ways.

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Neel Shah, center, pictured with Jishnu Das, a Lead Economist at the World Bank and Leslie Page, President of the Royal College of Midwives. Neel Shah, Author provided

Human rights in childbirth

I take care of patients in at a well-funded teaching hospital in Boston, where pregnant women seem well-respected and have clear, inviolable rights.

Continue reading Despite Differences in Culture, US and India Fall Short in Childbirth in Similar Ways

7 Organizations and Birth Centers That Save Black Mothers’ Lives #MaternalHealth

Today as we celebrate and commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, here are seven organizations and birth centers that are helping save the lives of black women during pregnancy, childbirth and after childbirth.

All maternal mortality and morbidity data in the United States report the same thing: black women die in disproportionately high numbers when compared to non-Hispanic white women. In fact, black women are four times more likely to die during or after childbirth than white women. One of the biggest statistics is black women — no matter socioeconomic status, education, lifestyle and access to health care — still die in larger numbers from maternal health complications.

The United States is the only developed country where the maternal mortality rate is increasing. Black women bear the largest brunt of this increase as they succumb to maternal health complications in the largest numbers.  National organizations and regional birth centers have emerged to save more black mothers’ lives, especially in a climate where the most money is spent on health care than any other country in the world and more and more black women are dying.

Support and follow these organizations and birth centers that are supporting reporting social and reproductive health.

Ancient Song Doula Services (www.ancientsongdoulaservices.com): Full Spectrum evidence – based doula care organization focused on the doula as preventative care in underserved communities.

Black Mamas Matter (www.blackmamasmatter.org):  Advancing the human right to safe and respectful maternal health care.

Black Women Health Imperative (http://www.bwhi.org):  We are Black Women’s Health Imperative – the only national nonprofit dedicated to the physical, emotional & financial health & wellness of Black women & girls.

Black Women Justice Mission (blackwomenjusticemission.com): A collective of African-American, African, Caribbean and multi-racial women committed to transforming the birthing experiences for Black women.

Commonsense Childbirth (www.commonsensechildbirth.org): Jennie Joseph and Commonsense Childbirth Inc. is building a network of support to transform maternity care in the US. Be a part of the movement for change!

National Birth Equity Collaborative (birthequity.org): NBEC aims to reduce Black maternal and infant mortality through research, family centered collaboration, and advocacy.

SisterSong (sistersong.net): Southern Based – National Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective

Notable Articles and Health Series on Black Maternal Health 

Art provided by uzuriart.com.