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Pregnancy-Related Deaths Rising

Machines, technology, and the rising Caesarean section rate all have one thing in common: They are not producing better/healthier outcomes for mothers in the United States.

Recently the Center for Disease Control and Prevention released a study that focuses on the pregnancy-related death numbers from 1998 to 2005. What they found would be shocking to most mothers or women, but not shocking to the childbirth community.

To explain the mortality rates very quickly, they are calculated by the amount of mothers or pregnant women who die from pregnancy-related complications per 100,000 live births.

In the years between 1998 and 2005, the maternal mortality rate averaged 14.5 deaths per 100,000 live births. Keep in mind that the United States sees an average of 3 million births a year, which fluctuates during this period of time.

The issue that the researchers reportedly have is with the rise and not fall of the maternal mortality rate, despite the medical advances we have had throughout the years. In 1986 the rate of maternal mortality was at an all-time low, with only 7.6 women per 100,000 live births dying from a pregnancy-related complication.

There is speculation across the board as to why this rise is happening, but studies show it points in a few directions, none of which have to do with the increase in multiples due to fertility treatments. (Especially when you consider that twins still only make up around 6% of all the births taking place in the United States.)

Some of the speculated reasons for the rise:

  • Lack of access to proper prenatal care — This could be because of lack of insurance, no available providers in the area, or ignorance.
  • The rise in Caesarean birth rates — The World Health Organization recommends a maximum C-section rate of 15% for births in the United States. This includes high-risk mothers, multiples, and genuine health reasons. We have a C-section rate of over 32%, and it’s climbing annually.
  • Technology — While some of the technology is helping with births, the rise in inductions for non-medical reasons also continues to play a factor in dangerous outcomes for mothers.
  • Home Birth? — Many insist that the slight rise in home births (about 2,000 births total in 3 years) has increased our maternal mortality rates as a whole. No way. Less than 2.5% of births are taking place at home, and most have healthy and successful outcomes.

In the article they conclude that while researchers at the CDC have not come forward and said X, Y, or Z is the cause of the rise, they did detail a few possible contributing factors:

  • Older mother
  • Obesity
  • Hypertension
  • Diabetic mothers
  • Mothers with chronic health problems

Clearly healthy mothers have healthier outcomes — so we should not only work on the access to good prenatal care for all women in our country, but we should also be working on our own health before having children. This includes eating right and being within our proper body mass index for our height. Weight is a huge factor that is causing complications in mothers today. It is not about who may be fat or overweight when it comes to looks and being vain; it is about health as a whole. No one wants to see a woman who is all skin and bones, but being clinically overweight can cause dangerous problems.

photo: flickr.com/Ross Catrow

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