This Sunday, families across the country will celebrate Mother’s Day. For most, this is a joyous occasion and a time to say thank you to those who have been our cheerleaders, friends and confidants. Personally, I am very lucky to have a wonderful mom who is funny, supportive and challenges me to be a better person.
However, many here in the U.S. are not as fortunate. Each year in this country, an estimated 880 women – about two every day – die from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. More than 52,000 women each year – one every 10 minutes – experience a severe maternal morbidity, which may lead to health problems that last a lifetime. Beyond emotional and physical challenges, morbidities may cost quite a bit for women and their families in terms of treatment and care.
Many are unaware that maternal mortality and morbidity remain a problem in the United States. According to Save the Children’s 2013 State of the World’s Mothers report, the U.S. ranks only 30th out of 176 countries as the best place to be a mother, behind much of the developed world. This is, in part, due to its poor maternal health outcomes. The U.S. is one of the few countries in the world where maternal mortality is reportedly on the rise. This is particularly shocking, considering that the U.S. spends $111 billion every year on maternal and newborn care. With such huge amounts spent on maternity care, why aren’t we seeing better outcomes.
Across the U.S., efforts are underway to improve maternal health from prenatal care to delivery to postpartum follow up. A number of states have increased the capacity of their maternal mortality review boards in an effort to review more cases and understand trends happening in the state. To better collect data, some states have adopted a “pregnancy checkbox” on their death certificates to make it easier to identify cases and take steps to learn from each event. In hospitals, efforts are underway to create a standard approach for treating each of the three leading killers attributed to pregnancy and childbirth – post-partum hemorrhage, preeclampsia and embolism – to ensure that every woman gets the same care, every time. Finally, communities throughout the U.S. are looking at innovative ways to get information about family planning and overall wellness directly to women, so that they can manage chronic conditions and be as healthy as possible during and after pregnancy.
Over the past few years, there has been increasing momentum around ensuring safe birth in this country. There are representatives at the table from across the continuum of care: ob/gyns and maternal fetal medicine specialists, nurses, midwives, quality improvement experts, hospital administrators and primary care providers. Government and community leaders are also leading the fight to end maternal mortality in the U.S. With focused efforts to prioritize this issue on the state and national agenda, we can take steps forward to ensure that every woman can have a safe birth, no matter where she delivers.
This weekend, I urge you to take the time to say thank you to your mom for being amazing, and to start the conversation with friends and family about ending maternal mortality in the U.S.
Tags: women's health