By Marcus Fernandez
Although the United States spends more money on hospital-based maternity care than any other country, its maternal mortality rate is higher than all other developed countries in the world. The rate of maternal mortality in the U.S. is 17 deaths per 100,000 live births. A racial disparity exists with Black women being between three to four times more likely than white women to die during pregnancy and childbirth.
Women during pregnancy and childbirth should be free to focus on the future and their role as a mother. They should not be anxious and concerned over the risk of pregnancy-related injuries and death because of what the White House characterizes as a “maternal health crisis.”
As you read through this article about maternal health care in the U.S. and the risks associated with pregnancy and childbirth, know that you have rights. The law grants women and their families the right to hold physicians and other health care providers accountable for mistakes made before, during and after childbirth that cause injuries or death.
What are the leading causes of pregnancy-related death?
When looking at reports comparing maternal mortality rates, it is important to know that some variations may exist depending on which of three methods are used in gathering the data:
- Maternal mortality: Used by the World Health Organization and represented as deaths per 100,000 births, the maternal mortality method counts deaths from any cause related to or aggravated by a pregnancy that occurs during or within 42 days of the end of the pregnancy.
- Pregnancy-associated: Counts any death during pregnancy or within one year of its end regardless of the cause.
- Pregnancy-related: Death from a pregnancy complication or pregnancy-aggravated medical condition unrelated to the pregnancy occurring during the pregnancy or within one year of its end. The pregnancy-related method is used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other government agencies in the U.S. to report mortality rates.
Irrespective of the methods used to gather data, the results reveal a health care system that is unprepared to handle common causes of pregnancy-related deaths, including:
- Cardiovascular conditions, including strokes
- Infection or sepsis
- Cardiomyopathy, which is a disease of the heart muscle
- Blood clots
- Hypertensive disorders
Mental health conditions may arise for the first time during pregnancy or begin immediately after childbirth. Depression may cause anxiety, feelings of sadness, fatigue and other symptoms, including thoughts of death and suicide. If left untreated, depression interferes with the ability of a person to engage in routine day-to-day activities.
Depression can develop during the pregnancy, or a woman may develop postpartum depression after giving birth. According to the CDC, one out of every eight women experience symptoms associated with postpartum depression during the first year. Yet depression remains a highly treatable condition if you have access to help.
What can you do to reduce your risk of a pregnancy-related injury?
Reducing your risk of medical issues during pregnancy begins before you are pregnant and includes the following:
- Develop an active lifestyle that includes eating healthy foods, getting enough exercise, and losing any excess pounds.
- Quit using substances that could be harmful during pregnancy, include drugs, alcohol and tobacco.
- Discuss any health issues that you have with your doctor and take steps to improve them. This includes mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety.
- Initiate prenatal care early in your pregnancy to detect health issues early.
- Report all health concerns throughout your pregnancy with your health care providers as soon as they arise.
The White House recently released its comprehensive plan to address what it characterizes as “the maternal health crisis.” It includes increasing access to high-quality health services, including mental health services, for women during pregnancy. It will, however, take time and require the passage of legislation to turn the plan into a reality.
If you need help paying for medical care during your pregnancy, the Florida Department of Health can help. Its Presumptive Eligibility for Pregnant Women (PEPW) provides temporary access to prenatal care for women awaiting Medicaid assistance.
Compensation for pregnancy-related deaths and injuries
Medical issues that threaten the life and wellbeing of a mother or child may occur without any fault. However, when a health care professional provides services that fall below the standard of care, their patient may be entitled to recover compensation for medical malpractice.
Learn more about from a personal injury lawyer
If you or a loved one suffers a pregnancy-related injury or death, you may be entitled to compensation. Learn more during a free consultation with a Tampa personal injury attorney.