Healthcare professionals have never been able to do as much for people as they can right now. There are diagnostic tests that can pinpoint the exact type of cancer someone has using genetic information. There are treatments that help people’s bodies heal themselves.
The possibilities for medical care have never seen more expansive, which makes the dismal state of maternal health care in the United States that much more tragic. One only needs to look at the recent maternal mortality rates in the United States to recognize how this particular area of medicine has experienced an appropriate level of progress in modern times.
Maternal mortality rates have increased in recent years
Far from setting the standard for safe prenatal care, the United States has a reputation for failing women and infants. In fact, maternal mortality rates, expressed as the number of women who die versus the number of live births, have actually increased. Federal data showed 20.1 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2019, but that figure increased to 23.8 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2020.
As if the overall rate weren’t troubling enough, the discrepancy between races is particularly concerning. Darker-skinned women are far more likely than white and non-black Hispanic women to die during childbirth. They are often more than twice as likely to suffer some kind of complication that proves fatal.
What the statistics reveal about obstetric care
It is very clear that the approach to maternity care in the United States does not work. From the attempt to medicalize the natural process of childbirth which can lead to a cascade of interventions to the bias of medical care providers, there are many elements that unnecessarily increase the risk to women during childbirth.
Women preparing for their third trimesters and their birth partners can use this information to push for better care in a maternity ward. Those struggling with the unexpectedly poor outcome of a pregnancy that may have included maternal death or severe birth injuries to the child may also need to educate themselves on how frequently these poor outcomes are preventable.
Deviations from best practices lead to family tragedies and can also result in grounds upon which those who have been affected can file medical malpractice claims. Holding hospitals and doctors accountable for medical malpractice that leads to poor birth outcomes might eventually lead to genuine changes in best practices.