Why Do Maternal Death Rates in the U.S. Continue to Rise?

In most places, mortality rates during pregnancy and childbirth have been decreasing for three decades, as better technology becomes available. However, the United States has suffered from the opposite problem: Here, maternal death and injury rates have only continued to climb, making the U.S. the most dangerous place for a woman to give birth in the developed world. With a nationwide maternal death rate of 20.7 women per 1,000 live births, and more than 50,000 maternal birth injuries reported every year, the U.S. ranks much closer to war-torn Afghanistan than to neighboring Canada.

A comprehensive USA Today report last year also revealed that state governments have done little to investigate the cause so far. Fewer than 20 states have instituted maternal death review panels or committees – and 18 have taken no steps at all, leading to more than 1,165 preventable deaths in those states between 2011 and 2016.

Possible Causes of High Maternal Mortality

Of the states that have investigated maternal mortality, a clear pattern of bias emerges. Most state reports blame the deceased mothers for everything from their personal lifestyle choices to not wearing seatbelts, while only infrequently mentioning issues with medical care.

But in California, one of the few states that has successfully reduced mortality rates, legislators took a different approach. After state review panels discovered that doctors routinely failed to diagnose pregnant women with dangerously high blood pressure – a symptom of many life-threatening conditions – California public health agencies published dozens of checklists and guides to help doctors become more proactive. It worked, and the state mortality rate is now one-fourth that of the nation’s.

Although there are many possible causes behind a maternal mortality case, it’s crucial that lawmakers take a closer look at how hospitals are treating expecting mothers. Hospital error is one of the leading causes of death in America, and by failing to take mother’s concerns seriously, negligent doctors may be partly responsible for adding to the death toll.

Fighting Back Against Maternal Mortality

While the House of Representatives recently passed a bill dedicating $50 million in funding and resources to fix this problem, the bill has not been approved by the Senate yet. Even if the bill is ratified, it will take years for the panel findings to be implemented.

If you have lost a loved one to complications during childbirth or pregnancy, it may be possible to hold the negligent party accountable, and allow you some measure of justice after that unspeakable loss. Our dedicated Baltimore birth injury lawyers regularly take on cases against doctors and nurses who failed to diagnose or treat dangerous conditions, and we can help you determine whether you have grounds for a case.

Call Brown & Barron, LLC at (410) 698-1717 for a free consultation on your maternal birth injury case.

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