US Has Highest Maternal Mortality Rate In Developed World, But One State Cut Its Rate In Half

Evie Fordham | Politics and Health Care Reporter

The United States has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the developed world, but California has cut its rate in half since 2006.

California reduced its rate from 16.9 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 2006 to approximately six per 100,000 in 2015. Eighty-eight percent of California birthing hospitals are a part of the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative (CMQCC), which obstetricians founded in 2006 to refocus hospitals’ care on mothers, reported NPR.

The U.S. had a maternal mortality rate of 26.4 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2015, compared to countries like the United Kingdom at 9.2 and Canada at 7.3, reported NPR in 2017. (RELATED: Men Are More Likely Than Women To Accept Genetic Engineering Of Babies, Study Says)

Maternal mortality includes women who die “from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy” during childbirth, while pregnant or within 42 days of being pregnant, according to the World Health Organization.

California obstetricians are cutting the state’s maternal death rate by focusing on two common childbirth complications, hemorrhage and preeclampsia, which is a high blood pressure condition, reported NPR.

“We’ve made big advances in emergency care by having some basic standardized approaches to emergencies,” obstetrician and CMQCC co-founder Elliott Main told NPR. “That’s what we’re bringing to maternity care now.”

Early on, the collaborative started testing obstetrical hemorrhage carts that had all the supplies needed to treat mothers who start losing too much blood. Hospitals in the collaborative reduced the severe maternal morbidity rate due to hemorrhage by more than 20 percent, according to a March 2017 report from the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Approximately 60 percent of all pregnancy-related maternal deaths in the U.S. are preventable, according to a 2018 report from the CDC Foundation. Roughly 800 mothers die from pregnancy-related causes each year.

Maternal deaths have been on the rise even as infant mortality has fallen, reported NPR. But experts including Main warn that the U.S. has a “maternal mortality data collection problem on a national scale” that could affect how it compares internationally, reported The Washington Post.

A 2012 Texas study citing extremely high state maternal mortality rates compared to the rest of the nation was debunked in 2018. Closer examination showed that “half of the deaths that were recorded as pregnancy-related that year were recorded that way in error,” reported The Washington Post. Nevertheless, lawmakers used the faulty numbers for political purposes.

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