A recent US government study claims that severe complications from childbirth are on the rise in the United States.
The study, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reports that in 2008-2009, there were 129 cases of severe complications for every 10,000 women. These included heart attack, stroke, severe bleeding, and kidney failure during or after childbirth.
That is a 75 percent rise from a decade earlier.
Simultaneously, complications during post-delivery hospital stays also “rose to 29 cases for every 10,000 women.” This is up 114 percent from 10 years earlier.
Despite these findings, researchers maintain that serious complications related to childbirth are still – for the most part – rare. Over four million women give birth each year. This study, which appeared in Obstetrics and Gynecology, found under 600,000 cases of sever complications spread over the last 11 years.
William Callaghan, who led the CDC study, assures women, “We don’t want to send the message that pregnant women should be afraid.”
Callaghan added, “The characteristics of the pregnant population are changing.” These changes may contribute to the overall rise in complications. Women, for example, are giving birth at older ages. More women dealing with obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes are opting to give birth.
There are also “more young women with serious conditions, such as congenital heart conditions, who are surviving and having children.”
Callaghan notes that with these changes, it is “not unexpected that rates of certain complications might rise.”
Another recent study conducted by the CDC found that minority women are at a greater risk. Between 1993 and 2006, minority women accounted for 41 percent of all births in the United States, but 62 percent of all “pregnancy-related deaths.” Of all studied minorities, African-American women are at the greatest risk, with 32-35 mothers dying out of every 100,000 births. That is “roughly four times the rate among white mothers.”
Callaghan’s team found that heart problems were the most common cause of birth-related deaths in women. The need for cardiac surgery during or after delivery showed a “dramatic” rise over time.
The bottom line, according to Callaghan, is “to be as healthy as possible before pregnancy, such as losing weight if you’re obese and getting high blood pressure and diabetes under control.”
“Not all complications can be avoided, of course. But the best outcomes happen when a woman is as healthy as possible going into pregnancy,” he added.
There are, of course, other nations that fare worse than we. A United Nations official urged the Philippines in May of 2009 to “do more to reduce the large numbers of its women who die from complications from pregnancy and childbirth.” United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) data shows that a Filipina mother has a one in 140 chance of dying while delivering a child. That means that around 11 mothers per day die giving birth, about 4,500 per year.