Over the past 25 years, maternal deaths have DECREASED across the WORLD by 4%. That’s awesome. In that same time, maternal deaths in the United States have INCREASED by 26%. Not awesome. And it is actually a real problem. It’s our maternal mortality crisis.
Why Is Maternal Mortality in the US on the Rise?
Maternal mortality is defined as the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days after pregnancy. The US has the highest rate in the developed world. The HIGHEST rate. That is embarrassing and not to mention dangerous.
My Maternity Mortality Scare
In thinking about maternal mortality rates, I have to go back to my delivery a year ago. I had a really rough pregnancy. I like to say “advanced maternal age” played a part in it. Actually I don’t LIKE to say that but let’s be honest. My pregnancy with my 15-year-old was cake. Not a single complication, born on her due date weighing 6 lbs 9 ozs. Fast forward 13 years and the story is a little different. I had gestational diabetes requiring insulin, wore a heart monitor for a month, failed half of my OB testing, and literally wondered if I would make it to the finish line.
Luckily, I did. I had a beautifully healthy 8 lb 15 oz girl – thank God. Truly. A week after she was born, I developed a nasty headache. I get tension headaches so I didn’t think much of it initially. My husband rubbed my neck but it wasn’t getting better. Then it hit me – this may be something different.
My ankles were swollen like a balloon – think that Jessica Simpson ankle photo. How cool is she for throwing that out there to show the real effects of pregnancy? I joked with my family about it as I figured it would go away with time. I was dehydrated when I went into the hospital for delivery and figured I just received too much fluid. Until the headache hit.
And that’s when I Knew …
I knew it – I checked my blood pressure and it was rising. Before we finally left for the hospital, it had hit 200/100. And so we drove 45 minutes, with a 1-week-old, through an ice storm, at midnight to the hospital. And I was admitted with postpartum preeclampsia. My blood pressure had gone through the roof, my heart rate had dropped, and I was at risk for seizures and stroke.
The 24 hour magnesium drip truly sucked. But I was fine and home on blood pressure medication after about 30 hours. I never had high blood pressure before pregnancy or during the pregnancy. It hit a week after.
I tell you this in thinking about our Maternal Mortality Crisis. I am a physician. My OB is my friend. I know the signs to look for and had help on the other end of a text. But I still could have missed my symptoms. And I know the work (and convincing by my crying Mother) it took to get me to the hospital that night. I will never forget the face of my sweet 15-year-old daughter who is always so calm and rarely cries as I left her in the garage that night. She was scared and wanted to go too.
Who Does Maternal Mortality Effect?
Our Maternal Mortality Crisis belongs to Moms like me. EXCEPT I am a success story, not a mortality. It is growing out of a lack of prenatal care and education mainly in underserved areas. That includes the closure of rural hospitals (mainly from lack of Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement reform) and urban areas. American Indian and African American women are 4 times more likely to suffer a pregnancy-related death than a white woman in the United States today. Think about that for a minute. That is wrong on SO many fronts.
I am proud of my organization, The American Academy of Family Physicians, who are joining with the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists and the National Rural Health Association in forming a task force for solutions to this growing problem. No new baby needs to lose its Mother because of lack of access and education in the United States today…
Simple Solution: Please find out more about the Maternal Mortality Crisis by checking out the Mom Act at https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/116/text. Or read this article with great statistics that will blow your mind: https://www.amnestyusa.org/the-u-s-maternal-health-crisis-14-numbers-you-need-to-know/ Something has to change.
For more Blog Posts on Pregnancy: