NPR: For Every Woman Who Dies In Childbirth In The U.S., 70 More Come Close

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This latest in a series of reports from NPR is out.

Over the past year, NPR and ProPublica have been investigating why American mothers die in childbirth at a far higher rate than in all other developed countries.

A mother giving birth in the U.S. is about three times as likely to die as a mother in Britain and Canada.

In the course of our reporting, another disturbing statistic emerged: For every American woman who dies from childbirth, 70 nearly die. That adds up to more than 50,000 women who suffer “severe maternal morbidity” from childbirth each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A patient safety group, the Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health, came up with an even higher figure. After conducting an in-depth study of devastating complications in hospitals in four states, it put the nationwide number at around 80,000.

I’m not going into great detail about this, but I do want to make a few related salient points.

First, human, please understand that for mammals, dying during childbirth is rare. You might think not because you are, say, a farmer and have seen goats and cattle and such have trouble in childbirth. But those are domesticated animals, and it is unwise to generalized from them. Usually, the birth of offspring in a mammal is not that dangerous in and of itself (though the act may for some species attract carnivores keen on a quick snack).

Humans have trouble with childbirth because were are a) primates but b) bipedal, and evolution wasn’t planning on that situation developing and c) have enormous heads at birth. Think about it. We are accustom to seeing babies so it is hard to notice, but babies have e-freakin’-normous heads. If you can find a child under about 8 years old or so, you can demonstrate this by demanding that it try to use a finger to touch its contra-lateral shoulder by reaching over the head. Can’t be done below a certain age.

Second point: The main reason this is happening, that childbirth in the US is so much more dangerous, statistically, is that a larger number of women are having babies while being at risk. One risk is age, but the others are more directly health-related (obesity, diabetes, etc.)

I mention this because our health care system can benefit a great deal (and get much less expensive and more effective) if it deals with overall health and not just sick. If we supported health rather than merely responding to medical problems when they emerge, there would be fewer medical problems emerging.

Part of that, by the way, is we stop worshiping business and the free market. Pepsi, as a private business has every right to use any means to convince all Americans to become too sick to have a baby at age 35, in order to sell their product. Right? Well, no, that is not right.

Here is the CDC report on several maternal morbidity in the United States:

Severe Maternal Morbidity in the United States

Severe maternal morbidity (SMM) includes unexpected outcomes of labor and delivery that result in significant short- or long-term consequences to a woman’s health.1 Using the most recent list of indicators, SMM has been steadily increasing in recent years and affected more than 50,000 women in the United States in 2014. This web report updates our previous report by adding information about SMM for 2014, the most recent year for which data are available on a national level.

It is not entirely clear why SMM is increasing, but changes in the overall health of the population of women giving birth may be contributing to increases in complications. For example, increases in maternal age,2 pre-pregnancy obesity,3,4 preexisting chronic medical conditions,5,6 and cesarean delivery2,7 have been documented. The consequences of the increasing SMM prevalence, in addition to the health effects for the woman, are wide-ranging and include increased medical costs and longer hospitalization stays.8 Tracking and understanding patterns of SMM, along with developing and carrying out interventions to improve the quality of maternal care are essential to reducing SMM.

The rest of the report is HERE.

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