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 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.