Tag Archives: maternal mortality

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

Video: The Global Gag Rule Explained

More than likely you have heard about the Global Gag Rule also known as the Mexico City Policy this week. You can learn more about it in a previous post: Why the Global Gag Rule Will Increase Maternal Mortality.

To get right to the point, however, Planned Parenthood released this video: What is the Global Gag Rule that explains it succinctly.

Why The Global Gag Rule Will Increase Maternal Mortality

Throughout my visits to clinics in Africa I have seen the work of Marie Stopes International in South Africa, Tanzania, Ethiopia as well as Zambia. They provide a full range of quality reproductive health services for women. I have always been impressed by the comprehensive care they provide. Now, their work will be hampered because of an imposed policy of the new administration.

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Marie Stopes International health worker I met in Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo: Jennifer James

Yesterday morning President Trump signed an executive order to reinstate the Global Gag Rule, or Mexico City Policy, that prevents international NGOs that accept USAID (taxpayer) money from advocating for the legalization of abortions, provide abortions, mention the word, or even refer women to health practionioners that provide safe, legal abortions.

The Global Gag Rule was instated during the Reagan admininstration in 1984 and since then there has been a virtual seesaw effect between Republican and Democratic administrations regarding whether the Rule is reinstated or revoked. According to the WHO, 78,000 women die every year from unsafe abortions. Under Obama’s eight year administration, that number was reportedly decreased by more than half. Now, that President Trump has signed this executive order reinstating the Global Gag Rule, the fear among the global health community is that that number will rapidly skyrocket again.

Continue reading Why The Global Gag Rule Will Increase Maternal Mortality

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 

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