Maternal mortality is often preventable. Find out what to do if your family’s been affected.
Maternity mortality rates in the United States have accelerated in recent years and far exceed that of all other developed countries.
In fact, a recent study by the CDC Foundation found that nearly 60 percent of U.S. pregnancy-related deaths are preventable with proper prenatal care and medical treatment. Given the advanced state of our medical technology, maternal deaths should not be occurring at such a high rate in the U.S. Something is wrong.
Overview of pregnancy deaths
A mother’s death during pregnancy can occur during the prenatal period, delivery or post-delivery. A doctor’s vigilance is necessary to protect the lives of the mother and baby.
Below are some of the most common causes of maternal mortality in the U.S.
Unsafe abortions (septic abortion)
The Supreme Court’s recent overturn of Roe v. Wade has seriously heightened concern for unsafe (back room) abortions. They were a real problem 50 years ago before Roe v. Wade, and it’s likely they will be again. Unsafe abortions could soon become a serious public health concern.
High blood pressure
Preeclampsia and eclampsia are pregnancy conditions that cause high blood pressure and elevated levels of urine protein, indicating kidney damage or other organ damage. It commonly shows up after 20 weeks of pregnancy, but it can also develop postpartum. Untreated, it can lead to fatality for both mother and baby.
Postpartum hemorrhage (bleeding) usually occurs within 24 hours of giving birth but remains a risk for up to 12 weeks. Uncontrolled heavy bleeding can lead to low blood pressure and death. Treatment includes medications, uterine massage and blood transfusions.
Left untreated, infections during pregnancy and the postpartum period can lead to serious complications for mother and baby, including death. Some of the most common infections experienced by pregnant women include:
- Puerperal sepsis. Puerperal sepsis (infection) usually occurs after birth and infects the uterus and surrounding areas. It’s the 2nd most common cause of maternal death.
- Endometritis. Endometritis is inflammation of the uterine lining. Microbes traveling from the cervix and vagina infect an otherwise aseptic uterus. The condition commonly occurs after a rupture of membranes during childbirth. It’s the most common postpartum infection. The incidence is far more common after cesarean section (C-section) births.
- Myometritis. Myometritis is a subcategory of puerperal infection that specifically affects the myometrium—the uterine muscle.
- Parametritis. Parametritis is an infection and inflammation of the parametrium—the connective tissue around the uterus.
Maternal mortality statistics
According to statistics from The Commonwealth Fund, the U.S. maternal mortality rate far exceeds that of other developed countries at 17.4 deaths per 100,000 live births.
Compared to other developed countries, the maternal death rate in the U.S. is:
- About twice as high as Canada (8.6 deaths per 100,000 live births)
- Almost 3 times higher than the U.K. (6.5 deaths per 100,000 live births)
- About 4 times higher than Sweden (4.3 deaths per 100,000 live births)
- Almost 10 times higher than Norway (1.8 deaths per 100,000 live births)
Additionally, while the U.S. maternal mortality rate is increasing, it’s declining in many other nations, including the U.K.
Some potential reasons for the U.S.’s elevated maternal mortality rate include:
- Older women are bearing children, and they often have more pre-existing medical problems. They’re also more likely to have C-sections, which increases their chances of having life-threatening complications.
- Half of U.S. pregnancies are unplanned, so the mother’s chronic health issues may not be considered or addressed before pregnancy.
At the same time, the U.S. infant mortality rate has dropped to its lowest point in history. This suggests that the U.S. medical community has given more attention to fetal and infant safety than maternal safety.
The tragic experience of Lauren Bloomstein
Lauren Bloomstein was a pediatric nurse who was expecting her 1st child when she was 33 years old. Her pregnancy proceeded without incident, and she continued to work 12-hour shifts, 3 days a week, until her 9th month. Her husband, a physician, monitored her blood pressure and vitals, which were consistently normal.
She wanted her baby to be delivered at the hospital where she worked and knew the staff to be competent. She and her OB-GYN arranged for her delivery to be induced on the weekend when they knew her OB-GYN would be on duty.
Lauren had a vaginal delivery after 23 hours of labor. She delivered a healthy 5 lbs 12 oz baby girl without complication, but 20 hours later, Lauren died. Her death was later blamed on preeclampsia, a condition that is relatively easy to diagnose and treat when a mother’s blood pressure is closely monitored.
The New Jersey Department of Health investigated and reported that there was:
- No record of the nurse notifying Lauren’s OB-GYN of her elevated blood pressure before delivery
- No evidence that Lauren’s blood pressure was monitored or evaluated after delivery
- No evidence that Lauren’s blood pressure was addressed by her OB-GYN until after she experienced a stroke
Lauren’s tragic death is all too emblematic of the shortcomings of maternal care for mothers in the U.S. Our maternal mortality rates will likely continue to climb unless something is done about it.
When to contact a birth injury attorney
Sadly, many birth injuries and deaths are preventable. Doctors, nurses and other medical professionals are required to provide a standard of care that includes monitoring patients for potential problems and following up with appropriate treatment when a problem is detected.
When a doctor or other medical professional fails to adhere to an established standard of care and their medical error results in injury or death, you may be able to recover compensation through a medical malpractice or wrongful death lawsuit.
If you’ve lost a loved one due to a pregnancy complication, contact the Brown Trial Firm for a free consultation. Laura Brown has years of experience in birth injury law, helping families like yours all across the U.S. get the compensation they deserve. If you need help with your birth injury lawsuit, contact us today for your free consultation.
- Cerebral Palsy
- Caput Succedaneum and Cephalohematoma
- Neonatal Intracranial Hemorrhage (Childbirth Brain Bleeds)
- Hydrocephalus (Extra Fluid in the Brain Cavity)
- Cervical Dystonia
- Hemiplegia (Brain or Spinal Cord Injury)
- Hemorrhagic Stroke
- Neonatal Stroke
- Periventricular Leukomalacia (PVL) Brain Injury
- Infant Seizures
- Spastic Diplegia (Spasticity in the Legs)
- Top Risks for Birth Injuries
- Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
- G-Tubes for Newborns
- Medical Errors
- Cesarean Section & Birth Injury
- Negligence in Brain Cooling Treatment
- Craniosacral Therapy
- Fetal Intolerance to Labor
- Jaundice (Kernicterus)
- Breech Position
- Placental Complications
- Placental Problems
- Umbilical Cord Problems
- Uterine Rupture
- Cervical Incompetence (Insufficiency)
- Blighted Ovum
- Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC) - Intestinal Inflammation
- Cephalopelvic Disproportion
- Meconium Aspiration Syndrome
- Amniotic Fluid Embolism
- Birth Injury from Premature Delivery
- Developmental Delays
- Abnormal Cord Insertion
- Infections at Birth
- Chorioamnionitis Bacterial Infection
- Premature birth
- Oxygen Deprivation
- Birth-Acquired Herpes
- Placenta Previa
- Placental Abruption
- Mismanaged Fetal Malposition
- Obesity Related Birth Injuries
- Intrauterine Growth Restriction
- Blood Clots During Pregnancy
- Ectopic Pregnancy Misdiagnosis
- Myths & Facts About Birth Injuries
- Bacterial Vaginosis
- Gestational Diabetes
- Maternal Mortality Risk
- Oligohydramnios (Low Amniotic Fluid)
- Infections During Pregnancy