Women face a higher risk of life-threatening complications during childbirth in the US than in any other ‘developed’ nation, a USA Today investigation claims.
The number of women who die in childbirth has risen dramatically in the US since 1999 while these fatalities have dropped in every other wealthy nation, including the UK, France, Japan, Germany and the UK.
For its investigation, USA Today spent four years examining hospital records and interviewing women who had survived dangerous childbirth complications across the country.
These women are among the 50,000 who sustain serious injuries during labor and delivery, and that only stands to grow unless doctors and hospital employees are given better training in the future.
In other developed nations, childbirth has become increasingly safe, but in the US the last 20 years have seen a sharp increase in maternal mortality
Historically childbirth has always been a dangerous endeavor.
But medical advances – especially those made in the last couple of decades – have changed that for most countries in the world.
‘Instead, the US continues to watch other countries improve as it falls behind. Today, this is the most dangerous place in the developed world to give birth,’ the report says.
However simply not diagnosing common problems during childbirth is leading to an alarming number of deaths in the US, where 26.4 women per every 100,000 that give birth do not survive the process – a sharp increase from the rate in 1990.
USA Today combed through hundreds of thousands of pages of internal records from hospitals looking for patterns in the childbirth-related complications that their patients experienced.
The most common problems were excessive blood loss and severely high blood pressure – simple problems that can easily be treated if doctors catch them in time.
Worldwide, about five women die every hour of preeclampsia, or high blood pressure during or immediately following pregnancy.
USA Today investigated the death of Yolanda Mention, who died due to the common complication.
After giving birth to a daughter, Serenity, at a South Carolina hospital in 2015, Mention was sent home. Neither she nor her doctors seemed to realize that her blood pressure was dangerously high.
She returned to the hospital the days later with classic symptoms of severe postpartum preeclampsia: high blood pressure and a splitting headache. But during the hours she was left uncared for in the waiting room, Mention had a stroke and died at age 38.
About three percent of women in the US develop preeclampsia, and USA Today’s investigation found that less than half of the women whose cases they looked at treated quickly enough to keep up with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist’s (ACOG) recommendations and mitigate their risks for stroke.
Similarly, many women bled to death during or after childbirth, or nearly did.
In their investigation, USA Today found that these deaths were not due to compounding complications, but simply the failure of doctors to monitor their patients closely enough.
Some physicians even conceded that they ‘eye balled’ blood loss, rather than measuring it, in interviews with USA Today reporters.
In severe cases, minimally invasive surgical procedures or even a hysterectomy may become necessary to stop the bleeding, administering common muscle contraction or blood clotting agents can often quickly treat excessive bleeding and save a woman’s life.
‘It doesn’t have to be this way,’ the report says.
‘Countries around the world have reduced maternal deaths and injuries by aggressively monitoring care and learning from mistakes. The result has been two decades of steady or reduced maternal harms in the rest of the developed world – as US rates climbed.’