About 700 women die from pregnancy-related complications in the United States every year. That’s terrible, but what’s worse is that 3 in 5 of the deaths could have been prevented. This is all according to a new report from the CDC that paints a pretty terrible picture of what it’s like to give birth in the United States.
The report included deaths that happen during pregnancy, at delivery, and in the postpartum period, up to a year afterward. About a third of the deaths the CDC documented happened in each phase. The most common causes of death were heart attack and stroke.
And depressingly but not surprisingly, white women died of pregnancy-related causes at a third of the rate of Black and American Indian/Alaska Native women.
The U.S. maternal reality rate has doubled in the past two decades, making us the only developed country with an increasing maternal mortality rate.
The CDC recommended addressing three factors to address the crisis: a lack of knowledge among patients and providers about warning signs, missed or delayed diagnoses, and access to appropriate and high-quality care.
But even if patients know the warning signs, if they can’t make it to the doctor it won’t matter. And providers’ knowledge is wasted if they aren’t consistently seeing pregnant women and new mothers.
Similarly, missed and delayed diagnoses can only be lessened if women have the time to visit the doctor and can afford to do so.
So it’s really all about the final factor: access to appropriate and high-quality care.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists agrees, suggesting policy changes like covering postpartum care as an ongoing process instead of one visit.
Alison Steube, a maternal-fetal medicine physician at UNC Health Care, recommended broader policy changes in comments to HuffPost.
“We are the only high-income country in the world without paid maternity leave…Moms covered by pregnancy Medicaid are kicked off 60 days after having a baby. These are decisions we have made as a society.”
This report is a chilling reminder of the consequences of these decisions.