ABC News Reports on Rise in Maternal Mortality Rates

This video really drives home that there is still more work to be done in making birth safer for women and their babies (thanks to Walker Karraa for the pointer):

ABC News Video – New Moms at Risk: Why are a growing number of American moms dying shortly after giving birth?

It talks about a new report commissioned by the California Department of Health and presented by a watchdog group, California Watch (read their report: More women dying from pregnancy complications; state holds on to report), that shows that the number of women who die within 42 days of giving birth has nearly tripled over a decade.

In terms of maternal mortality, the US is moving backwards. These numbers haven’t been seen since the 1970’s. Causes include pre-existing maternal conditions such as diabetes and obesity, but they go on to talk about scheduled c-sections as being a large contributer to the increase in deaths.

The advice? Avoid interventions during labor – particularly inductions, and avoid c-sections.

The video ends with this very important point: If you see something that’s wrong, say something.

I want to raise a few points along with this.

First, the final advice about “saying something” is really quite hard, particularly if you are a low-income or minority woman. Why? The medical system is intimidating. Sure, many women feel perfectly comfortable talking to their medical professionals about their concerns, but many do not. If you are someone who is not used to speaking up to people in authority (doctors, nurses, medical professionals), then speaking up when one is vulnerable, a new mother, and in bed wearing a hospital gown is not something that comes easily. For some women and in certain cultures, challenging a man in charge is practically unthinkable. And if you are a woman for whom English is not a first language, then this is even harder. To cap it off, even if she does say something, there is a chance that concerns will be dismissed or ignored – “She’s just a complainer.”

There’s a skill to speaking up in a way that can be heard, and a way of being persistent if one’s concerns are not heard the first time, but if one has no guide on how to do this, concerns can easily go unspoken or unheard and the medical professionals lose the opportunity for gathering very important medical information. Having a doula can really help, because she can help create the space for the woman to speak to her medical provider and help her articulate what is going on so it can be heard. The doula doesn’t speak for the woman, but allows the woman’s own voice to come through and speak for herself.

Second, how does one reduce interventions or reduce the c-section rate? Well, one peer-reviewed, statistically significant way of doing so is… to have a doula.

I for one find it shocking that the maternal mortality rate is so high in the United States. I am glad to know that ABC News finds this shocking as well. Anyone notice how in the video, the announcer appears genuinely surprised and dismayed? I’m so glad information like this is finally getting out.

Maybe now, something can be done.

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