Though maternal death rates are falling in other developed nations, in the United States, women bearing children today are 50 percent more likely to die during the birth process than their mothers were, according to the World Health Organization.
In 1990, the U.S. saw 17 deaths per 100,000 pregnant women; that number rose to 26 deaths per 100,000 in 2015.
According to Neel Shah, assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School, access to care is a growing problem in the U.S.
It’s not just about medical failures but also represents “eroding social support” for women and a lack of timely care, she said. A study published in Health Affairs showed access to obstetric services in rural US counties has fallen, with 9% losing all their hospital obstetric services in the 10 years to 2014. It also showed an additional 45% of rural US counties had no hospital obstetric services at all during the same period.
The US also lags its industrialized counterparts in the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Report, ranking 49th out of 144 countries, compared with Canada at 16th and France at 11th. It also ranked 82nd out of 144 in the subcategory that measures the differences between women’s and men’s health.