Does The Maternal Death Rate In The U.S. Really Mirror The Third World?

The maternal death rate in America has greatly increased, according to a recent study. Although the United States promised to lower the maternal death rate by 75 percent in their Millennium Development Goals commitment, the United States has instead let the health of expectant mothers slip, and the maternal birth rate has increased by a whopping 27 percent.

According to CBS, out of 100,000 live births, at least 24 mothers die on the day of or within 42 days of giving birth. Even more shocking, CBS reports that official data on birth mortality has not been accurate, and instead estimated the ratio to be 16 to 100,000. Some public health experts find this new data to be shocking, while others feel that America is still in the safe zone.

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Marian McDorman, the lead researcher of the study at the University of Maryland, is both shocked and concerned about the new findings. Recently, she gave her stance in an interview.

“Certainly, maternal death is still a rare event. But it’s of great concern that the rate is not improving — it’s increasing.”

While McDorman may not seem very concerned, the other study researcher made a point that reveals just how behind the United States is in regards to healthcare. According to Eugene Declercq, professor of community health sciences at BUSPH, other large, successful nations do not have this unfortunate maternal death rate.

“The current maternal mortality rate places the United States far behind other industrialized nations. There is a need to redouble efforts to prevent maternal deaths and improve maternity care for the four million U.S. women giving birth each year.”

This statement indicates that the United States is not thriving in health and instead, it’s mirroring the birth realities in the third world., though, there is no data to prove it. Based on statistics collected by the World Health Organization (WHO), 99 percent of all maternal death occur in developing countries. This raises the question, how much of the 1 percent doesn’t the United States make up? The answer to this question is unsure, but what is evident, is that there are underlying issues causing the maternal death rate to increase.

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Based on WHO’s reliable information, there are certain factors which contribute to a women’s health during and after pregnancy. The most common reasons for maternal death are severe bleeding, infections, and high blood pressure. All of these are issues that if occurring in a hospital in the United States, should not result in death. But the leading socioeconomic factors that WHO highlights may have some relevance in this case. They are as follows.

  • Poverty
  • Distance
  • Lack of information
  • Inadequate services
  • Cultural practices

There may be a reason that poverty is listed first, but that should be the case for the United States. Prenatal care can be paid for by the state, so the only answer is that some people just don’t know it. Right? Lack of information may be the reason that women go without prenatal care, eat unhealthy food during pregnancy that may lead to hypertension, but none of this explains how they end up dead. So, no, none of these are the answer.

Hospitals cannot turn pregnant women away because they didn’t have prenatal care or don’t have health insurance. So hospitals then have the responsibility, once they take someone in, to adhere to all of their pregnancy needs. This means monitoring blood pressure, administering oxytocin immediately after a woman gives birth, and educating them as much as possible on what symptoms to look out for once they are realized.

The only answer is that these things are not being done in the United States. This means that the maternal death rate increase is clearly that result of a failed health system. The authors of the study agree and recently made an official statement to that fact.

“It is an international embarrassment that the United States, since 2007, has not been able to provide a national maternal mortality rate to international data repositories. This inability reflects the chronic underfunding over the past two decades of state and national vital statistics systems. Indeed, it was primarily a lack of funds that led to delays (of more than a decade in many states) in the adoption of the 2003 revised birth and death certificates.”

According to UNICEF, the global maternal mortality ratio declined by 44 percent since 1990. It went from 385 deaths to 216 deaths per 100,000 live births, based on estimates made by the United Nations (UN). In most third world countries, the death mortality numbers are 40,000 to 150,000 each year. So, the U.S. doesn’t mirror the third world, but with a 27 percent maternal death rate, it doesn’t look much like a first world country, either.

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