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
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.”
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.
On Tuesday the first congressional caucus on black maternal health launched on Capitol Hill. Led by Democrat congresswomen Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC) and freshman Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Il.) the caucus’s mission is to ensure black women are not dying senselessly during or after childbirth
As has been noted here many times before black women experience maternal mortality rates four times higher than white mothers no matter black women’s socioeconomic status or even the level of education achieved. In general, the United States has the highest maternal mortality rate of any developed country. Black women fare the worst.
After recently receiving a press release about a pregnancy docuseries on Facebook Watch I have been hooked! As a maternal health advocate, it takes a lot to stop me in my tracks, but 9 Months With Courteney Coxhas really opened my eyes on the realities of pregnancy in America. After all, it has been twenty years since I had my last child, so things have definitely changed!
My proclivity these days is to focus on vulnerable communities when it comes to maternal health and mortality and yet there are so many women who have to deal with pregnancy complications and care, health issues, and disparities, as well as fertility options and disappointments when it comes to carrying a baby full-term. The most important thing for all of us to remember is that women the world over have personal struggles with pregnancy. Those experiences are certainly different from one country to the next, and most certainly from one woman to the next. They all are valid for those who are carrying a baby or are desperately trying to.
9 Months With Courteney Coxhas honestly shone a brilliant light on pregnancy in the United States in its docuseries from a mother who found out she was pregnant and had cancer at the same time, to a couple who have tried for years to get pregnant, only to miscarry time and time again, to a mother who couldn’t imagine ever delivering a ninth child to add to her already eight children. These are just a few of the couples’ experiences of the ten that are laid bare in this riveting Facebook Watch show.
Want to watch? Start on episode one and enjoy. I will admit, I wish the episodes were longer because I really want to know what happens, but they are timed perfectly for busy people. Each episode is about 15 minutes.