In 1990, there were approximately 17 maternal deaths recorded for every 100,000 pregnant women in the United States. In 2015, this number rose to over 26 deaths per 100,000 pregnant women.
And while these numbers seem rather insignificant, they mark a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that women today will die while bearing a child compared to their mothers 25 years ago, Dr. Neel Shah writes for Harvard Health Publishing.
Moreover, black women consistently face three to four times the risk of maternal death than white women, irrespective of education or income level.
And outcomes less severe than death, Dr. Shah notes, are extremely common among pregnant women as well.
“For every death, pregnancy-related conditions, such as high blood pressure or blood clotting disorders, result in up to 100 severe injuries,” Shah notes. “For every severe injury, tens of thousands of women suffer from inadequately treated physical or mental illnesses, as well as the broader disempowerment mothers face in the absence of paid parental leave policies and other social support.”
Maternal death, contrary to popular belief, is not as acute as a hemorrhage during childbirth. 80 percent of maternal deaths happen weeks and months either before or after childbirth revealing that these are broader issues than just proper hospital care.
“And they represent many failures — not just unsafe medical care, but also eroding social support necessary for women to recognize medical warning signs, like abnormal bleeding or hopelessness about the future, and to seek timely care.”