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Is Maternal Mortality Something We Should Still Be Concerned About in the US?

It’s hard to believe that in 2019, there are still hundreds of thousands of women dying each year from complications relating to childbirth.

According to The Guardian, data collected in 2017 estimated 295,000 women died from “complications in pregnancy and childbirth.” Maternal mortality has decreased by more than a third since 2000, but poverty and inadequate healthcare are still responsible for many deaths, which could otherwise be prevented. Although the pace of the global targets to reduce maternal deaths seem to be slow, there has been progress. But according to WebMD, the same cannot be said about pregnancy-related deaths in the United States.

Although the United States does fare better than many developing nations, the publication notes that in the country, maternal deaths appear to be on the rise. And the Harvard Business Review claims the United States is the only developed country in which the maternal-mortality has been steadily rising.

When comparing the maternal deaths in the United States to that of other wealthy countries, the figures seem to be alarming, according to data estimates from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (via WebMD). In 2016, there were almost 29 maternal deaths for every 100,000 births in the U.S., compared to just 5 in Australia, 8 in Canada, and 7 in the U.K.

The National Geographic has also reported on the rates of maternal mortality in the United States, noting that 700 women die each year in the country from reasons relating to pregnancy and childbirth, with black women three times more at risk of maternal mortality than white women. At least 60 percent of these maternal deaths are reportedly preventable. WebMD has also stated that not only are African-American women more likely to die of pregnancy-related problems, they are also more likely than white women to have “preventable deaths in pregnancy.”

There are several complex factors at play, including "racial/ethnic, socioeconomic, and geographic disparities," JAMA Network notes. A thought that Dr. Judette Louis, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at the University of South Florida, expands on. “It’s perplexing and sad,” she told WebMD “It’s one of the starkest examples of disparities in women’s health.”

[Image via Shutterstock]

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