As a mom blogger, I keep tabs on all sorts of parenting and health reports, including news on pregnancy and labor. So I’ve known for a while that, despite the huge amounts of money the U.S. spends on healthcare every year, we still have a disturbingly high maternity mortality rate: According to the most recent statistics, nearly 13 U.S. women die for every 100,000 live births.
More shockingly, in 2010 the U.S. ranked 50th in the world for maternal mortality, according to data from the World Health Organization, with higher death rates than some Middle Eastern and Asian countries as well as most European countries.
Both times I was pregnant, I put this out of my mind as much as possible. When it did invade my thoughts, I rationalized to myself why I’d be OK: I was healthy, I ate well and had access to great healthcare. Surely the women accounting for the U.S.’s high maternal mortality rate were less fortunate than me with respect to their own health and the healthcare available to them, right?
I’m glad I’m not pregnant right now because the news of Connie Kin’s death would rattle me more than it already has. A beloved vlogger with the “What’s Up Moms” YouTube channel, Connie died last month after contracting “an infection as a complication from childbirth,” according to a message posted by her husband on Facebook.
I didn’t know Connie personally, but take one look at her YouTube videos and you’ll see right away that she’s no poster child for the disenfranchised women you might expect to account for many of the U.S.’s maternal deaths. In her videos, she looks full of life, happy and very healthy. She obviously had a great support network in her husband and her fellow What’s Up Moms vloggers, and she clearly wasn’t lacking in resources — part of her job was reviewing parenting products!
She was a happy, healthy mom just like me. But I survived the birth of my second child; she didn’t.
According to the CDC, infection was the second-most common cause of maternal death in the U.S., behind cardiovascular diseases. Other causes include cardiomyopathy, noncardiovascular diseases and hemorrhage.
Women may have “chronic conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension, obesity,” JoAnne Fischer, executive director of the Maternity Care Coalition, told the news website Newsworks.org. “Women who may have been born with chronic heart conditions are now having babies.”
The increasing number of cesarean sections, Fischer said, is also to blame for rising maternal mortality rates.
“If you have a C-section, it is more likely you are at risk for maternal complications and death,” she said.
Though some deaths are the result of pre-existing conditions, critics say U.S. hospitals can do better in terms of providing care that will reduce the risk of death after childbirth.
I hope they do. In the meantime, the takeaway for moms like me — moms who thought they couldn’t possibly be a part of the statistics — is terrifying: Yes, it can happen to anyone.