A global survey of maternal mortality recently found that women in the U.S. are two times more likely to die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related causes than women in Canada. The medical malpractice attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm detail this survey and the factors driving these alarming statistics.
The survey was published by the United Nations and World Bank and led by the World Health Organization. The U.S. was one of just 13 countries to have worse death rates, along with Zimbabwe, North Korea and Venezuela.
The U.S. maternal mortality rate was found to be worse than it was in 1990. In 1990, the U.S. averaged 12 deaths per 100,000 live births. In 2013, that number rose to 14. Canada averaged seven deaths per 100,000 births. The global leaders in maternal survival are Iceland, Finland, Greece and Poland, all of which have just three mothers die for every 100,000 births.
Maternal mortality is more pronounced in certain regions of the country than in others. We recently reported on the alarmingly high death rate of mothers in Mississippi, for example, where 40 of every 100,000 births results in the mother’s death. For black women in Mississippi, that number is even higher, with more than 54 women dying per 100,000 births.
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Some of the most common causes of death include high blood pressure, heavy bleeding, and obstructed labor, and nearly half are preventable. Poorer women, particularly those living in the South, are unable to get regular check-ups throughout their pregnancies, resulting in unnoticed and untreated complications. Recently, Mississippi chose not to expand its Medicaid program, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without any insurance options.
At the same time, the cost of healthcare for pregnant women has drastically risen, with the average cost of delivery tripling since 1996. We spend so much on childbirths – about $50 billion per year, the costliest in the world – so why are so many women dying, and at twice the rate of our neighbor to the North?
Childbirth and Medical Malpractice
Maternal healthcare is unreasonably expensive here not because we have better technology or more doctors, but because we pay individually for each service at inflated prices. Clinicians here are encouraged to order extra tests, extra procedures, or push for more office visits that are mostly unnecessary. Since each test, bloodwork, ultrasound and procedure are done individually by different specialists, mothers’ medical charts are often wrought with confusion as costs just keep mounting.
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As with any relationship, the quality of communication is key. One study looking at why mothers sued their doctors after a birth injury stated that about one-third of women said their doctor did not talk openly with them. About 50% said their doctor tried to mislead them, and an astounding 70% said they were never told about long-term developmental problems in their children.
Researchers and experts seem to agree that paying attention to mothers and taking the time to educate them about their care makes all the difference, for the health of the mother and the child. If a woman comes into a hospital saying she does not feel right, her concerns should be taken seriously, not dismissed as nervousness or blamed on hormonal shifts.
Families need to be part of the discussion regarding their birthing plan, any possible complications, treatments for those complications, and medical interventions. If a child is born extremely premature, for example, the family needs to know about the chance of survival and any neurodevelopmental impairment. Information on policies regarding intervention, survival, and permanent damage would help parents enormously in making decisions for their child.
Of course, there are many factors contributing to this epidemic in childbirth and many solutions offered by industry insiders. Our team of medical malpractice lawyers represents mothers and children seriously injured during pregnancy and birth. We have 30 years of experience fighting on behalf of families and accept clients nationwide. If you have any questions about medical malpractice, birth injuries, or any other type of serious injury, contact our firm for a free case review.