US most dangerous place to give birth in developed world — not surprising, experts say

Birth workers say maternal mortality rate has continued to noticeably increase

Hadas Kuznits
July 28, 2018 - 3:49 pm

Dreamstime

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A USA Today investigation this week found America to be the most dangerous place to give birth in the developed world. 

Naima Black with the Maternity Care Coalition said the findings are shocking, but not surprising. They mirror numerous studies on the frightening statistics — ones that birth workers have sadly been aware of for quite some time.

The investigation found that the U.S. has the highest maternal death rate among developed nations — about 700 women each year. Sources revealed about half of those deaths could have been prevented. Even further, about 50,000 women per year suffer severe complications or life-threatening injuries during childbirth.

Elsewhere, the death rate has either been stable or falling. In Pennsylvania, "the data for about a dozen hospitals show mothers being promptly treated only 49 to 67 percent of the time," according to the investigation.

"It's pretty staggering that we are so far behind and yet we have continued to push a medicalized model of birth in our country where interventions are available at increasing development, but unfortunately, we have come to a place where we feel the need to bring those interventions to bear on just about every woman," Black said.

And the high mortality rate for birthing mothers is a fact that's been well known for a while in America.

"The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has put out some opinion statements about the overuse of induction," Black said.

She said hospital births and the availability of new technologies do not equate to safer births.

"What we see is the reliance on interventions is actually decreasing our positive outcomes. Our outcomes have not gotten better as the use of these interventions has increased," she added.

Countries with the lowest maternal death rates "have a much more woman, midwifery-centered model of care," Black noted. "They also promote home birth."

She points out that obstetricians are essentially surgeons, and as the American model of maternal care has moved away from midwifery care, the interventions skyrocket.

"The less we see natural physiological labor and birth, then the less normal that becomes for everyone," she explained.