Statistics are bearing out a disturbing trend: women in the U.S. today are at a greater risk of dying during pregnancy or childbirth than their mothers were, with women of color especially vulnerable.
According to a CBS News report, the United States is seeing an uptick in maternal deaths, even as other industrialized nations have experienced a decrease. In fact, countries like Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia now have lower maternal mortality rates than the United States.
Each day, two women die during childbirth and 60,000 women face near-death experiences in America. When it comes to maternal mortality rates, the United States currently ranks No. 46.
The CBS News report describes the case of a healthy 39-year-old pregnant woman who died after the birth of her second child. Her husband said he noticed his wife's catheter had turned pink with blood. A doctor ordered a CT scan, but hours passed without the procedure being performed, according to her husband. The woman's abdomen was later found to be filled with blood as the result of uncontrolled hemorrhage. Her heart stopped, and she died.
In another case cited by CBS News, a pregnant woman nearly became another statistic after complaining of extreme pain. Her doctor told her she was fine and should go home and rest. The woman persisted and eventually was tested. She had a rare condition that put her and her baby at risk of dying. Doctors performed an emergency C-section.
"I was thinking to myself, I was right the whole time," the mother said.
Fortunately, she and her baby survived.
What is behind the trend in higher maternal mortality rates?
According to CBS, the increase in the number of C-sections performed during childbirth is one of the factors behind the rise in maternal deaths. A practicing doctor who is also a professor of obstetrics at Harvard Medical School told CBS that most C-sections are unnecessary. Women who undergo more than one C-section are particularly at risk of bleeding to death.
Doctors also sometimes ignore complaints from pregnant woman. "I've never been told 'no' so many times," one woman told CBS News.
Furthermore, a mother's access to healthcare has an impact on mortality rates. CBS reports that hundreds of hospital maternity wards have closed since 2000 because they are too expensive to operate. Half of all rural counties lack obstetric services. In addition, some women get shut out from proper prenatal care because they cannot afford to pay high deductibles.
Any death during childbirth - whether it's the mother or the baby - demands a thorough investigation. Was the C-section necessary? Did doctors ignore a mother who was in pain and in need of treatment? Did the hospital delay treatment? The U.S. lacks a single database to track and study maternal deaths, so it may be up to the victim or her loved ones to investigate whether the facility has a pattern of medical mistakes leading to maternal deaths. An experienced attorney can be a critical partner in this process of determining whether there was medical malpractice.
If your loved one died during childbirth, you will need a strong legal advocate at your side to ask the right questions. Contact The Deratany Firm to find out how we can help.