Opinion

The U.S. Has a Maternal Mortality Problem

By EMILY WEIKL

Staff Writer

The United States has numerous resources within its borders that give its government the ability to accomplish various things: the ability to wage war, build bridges and make new technologies.

The U.S has a massive amount of wealth and influence. It also has a massive number of women dying after giving birth.

“The ability to protect the health of mothers and babies in childbirth is a basic measure of a society’s development,” NPR wrote. “Yet every year in the U.S., 700 to 900 women die from pregnancy or childbirth- related causes, and some 65,000 nearly die — by many measures, the worst record in the developed world.”

The reasons for these statistics vary greatly.

“Women in America frequently face poor access to healthcare, experience overuse of medical interventions, and enter pregnancy with chronic conditions and limited education,” according to CNN. “Also, financial, racial, cultural and systemic barriers leave women of color and low-income women with lesser quality care or no care at all.”

The tendency of doctors and nurses to watch over the baby more than the mother can be another. The case of Lauren Bloomstien, a New Jersey neonatal nurse, should be a cautionary tale.

“During labor, she had 21 systolic readings at or above 140 and 13 diastolic readings at or above 90, her records indicated; for a stretch of almost eight hours, her blood pressure wasn’t monitored at all, the New Jersey Department of Health later found,” according to ProPublica. “Over that same period, their baby’s vital signs were being constantly watched, Larry [Lauren’s husband] said.”

The escalating blood pressure caused a bleed in her brain and Lauren died 20 hours after giving birth to a girl, Hailey, in 2011. A pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure, known as preeclampsia, was the cause.

Preeclampsia is a major cause of maternal deaths in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control, accounting for 7.6 percent of them. Others included embolisms, cardiomyopathy and hemorrhaging.

The overall U.S. rate of such deaths is high at 19.9 women per 100,000 live births, according to the CDC’s 2016 data, but New Jersey’s is even higher at 37.3. Only the District of Columbia’s rate tops it.

And few states have a rate as low as California’s, which is 5.9. Professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Stanford and the University of California-San Francisco Elliot Main has helped get the rate down. Main had lost a patient due to severe preeclampsia when everyone though they had done everything to the letter.

 

This experience helped inspire him to create California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative. The CMQC found in 2015 that the most preventable deaths were hemorrhaging and preeclampsia. Main and his colleagues helped to make a toolkit that target obstetric bleeding as a result.

It recommended “hemorrhage carts” to store medications and supplies, consistent drills and training and the collection and weighing of postpartum blood. These protocols have had a great effect in the hospitals that began to use the toolkit.

“Hospitals that adopted the toolkit saw a 21 percent decrease in near deaths from maternal bleeding in the first year; hospitals that didn’t use the protocol had a 1.2 percent reduction,” according to ProPublica.

Another toolkit was made to target preeclampsia in 2014, but data on its effectiveness has not been published yet.

New Jersey has been making some progress in using mini-toolkits for preeclampsia and hemorrhaging. California has as well, considering its low rate, but half of the 250 hospitals that deliver children do not use the toolkits, according to ProPublica.

The U.S has a maternity problem that countries like England, Canada and the United Arab Emirates do not have. This problem hurts all women who choose to give birth, especially those in poorer areas and women of color. Potential mothers who do not have access to treatment that can help them are more likely to die if they su er complications.

The CDC found that a large percentage of the deaths, 60 percent, were preventable.

“Ultimately, we must recognize that there are some very difficult reasons why our maternal mortality rates are higher than our peer nations and that correcting these differences ought to be our first order of business,” according to Slate.

The U.S is a world superpower, and women should not be dying at such a high rate. Change, real and concrete change, must happen. It must happen because women’s lives depend on it.

Larry Bloomstein has since remarried since losing Lauren. Hailey brings joy into his life, along with his younger daughter Aria and wife Carolyn. But said he cannot move past from what he saw Lauren experience. He still has a video of the day Hailey was born on his phone.

“I can’t, I literally can’t accept it. The amount of pain she must have experienced in that exact moment when she finally had this little girl. … I can accept the amount of pain I have been dealt,” he said in an interview with ProPublica. “But [her pain] is the one thing I just can’t accept. I can’t understand, I can’t fathom it.”

Hailey has Lauren’s green eyes and brown hair. She was five when ProPublica and NPR wrote about her mother.

Larry gained a daughter but lost a wife that day in 2011. Lauren is more than an example of the high maternal death rate in the U.S. She was a woman who loved her job, her husband and life itself. And she would have loved her daughter.

“On birthdays and holidays, Larry takes the girls to the cemetery,” ProPublica wrote. “He designed the gravestone — his handprint and Lauren’s reaching away from each other, newborn Hailey’s linking them forever.”

Categories: Opinion