Maternal Death Rates In United States Are Sharply Increasing — What’s Going On?

On new study being published in the September issue of the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology on the maternal death rate includes some pretty stunning information. The maternal death rate study focused on Texas, where the maternal death rate almost doubled between the years of 2010 and 2012. Notably, the maternal death rate study points out that the period the study focused on is the same period in which Texas slashed women’s health funding — primarily to Planned Parenthood.

In 2012, the maternal death rate numbered 148 women in Texas from either while being pregnant or soon after being pregnant. This jump in the rate of Texas maternal deaths almost doubled from 2010, when the fatality rate was at 72 deaths. This mirrors the stats that the deaths per 100 thousand births jumped to 36 in 2014 from 18 in 2006.

planned parenthood [Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]The maternal death rate report isn’t just centered on Texas, however. According to the World Health Organization, the United States is the only developed country in the world in which the maternal death rate has increased in the decade before 2013. Some of the only other countries where the maternal death rate rose in the same period included Botswana, Chad, and Afghanistan.

And yet, the reasons behind the dramatic rise in maternal death rates in the United States remain a mystery. The managing director of research at Amnesty International in the United States, Rachel Ward, commented on the mystery.

“There is sadly no magic bullet that explains what is behind the high levels of maternal mortality in the United States. It’s a combination of factors that speak to the systemic problems of failing to provide affordable, accessible, quality health services to all women in the United States.”

According to researchers, there are segments of the American population that are more susceptible to higher maternal death rates. Currently, pregnant women of color are no more vulnerable to pregnancy-related conditions like abruptio placentae, placenta previa, postpartum hemorrhage, eclampsia, and preeclampsia, however, they are two to three times more likely than white women to die from those conditions once they contract them. For the moment, though, scientists are hard-pressed to find specific reasons for this. In addition to race, poverty also has a role to play in maternal death rates. Poverty factors into maternal death rates due to depression, asthma, diabetes and obesity.

Planned Parenthood [Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images]So what happened in Texas? Why did the maternal death rates double there? Yes, the authors of the new research study say that constricting funding to places like Planned Parenthood did have an impact on the maternal death rate rise, but they don’t believe that that’s the whole story. Something else is at work in Texas, though, for the moment, the researchers are not at liberty to make an ascertainment

One thing that cannot be ignored, however, is the difficulty to access healthcare for expecting mothers, especially for those in rural areas — which Texas has a lot of. Experts also point out that Planned Parenthood — and organizations like it — are a jumping off point for healthcare when it comes to many women.

Additionally, another factor — albeit a controversial one — that has been tossed about is the access to safe and legal abortions. According to experts when abortions are illegal, or even hard to come by, statistics state that women don’t stop getting them, they just end up attempting dangerous abortions themselves or attempt to access one from individuals who are less than qualified. In developing countries, abortions via less than reputable administrators account for between eight and fifteen percent of maternal deaths. In Texas, the availability of reputable abortion providers for expectant mothers is quickly evaporating. Between 2012 and 2015, the number of credible abortion clinics shrank dramatically fro 41 to 17, which means that the average Texan will have to travel over 100 miles to find such a facility. Clearly, the lack of proper abortion clinics in Texas is yet another reason for such a high maternal death rate.

[Photo by Ian Waldie/Getty Images]