The number of American women dying in childbirth has been increasing, while the maternal mortality rate in most developed nations has been dropping, according to a new report.
Vox notes that women dying in pregnancy-related deaths in the U.S was at 7.2 per 100,000 births in 1987, but climbed to 15.9 by 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) pregnancy mortality surveillance system; that comes out to about 700 women dying in the U.S. out of 4 million live births.
Around 30 years ago, most women who died during delivery were bleeding out and suffering from increases in pregnancy-induced blood pressure but these days, pregnant women are more likely to die from pre-existing conditions that cause pregnancy complications.
Dr. William Callaghan, who heads maternal and infant health at the CDC, told Vox:
We’ve seen a big bump in cardiovascular disease and chronic disease contributing to maternal deaths. Underlying heart disease is common, diabetes is common. We now have a group of women bringing with them into pregnancy their entire health history.
It’s a larger problem than just dealing with women during pregnancy, it’s the health of our society. Imagine a [pregnant] woman comes in with BMI of 40, and she’s 24 years old -- that didn’t happen in the past year, it happened in the past 24 years.
Another grim statistic is the rise of black women's pregnancy-related deaths going from 34 percent in 2007 to 42.8 percent in 2011.
Black women have been found in studies to have hypertension, diabetes, or obesity more than their white peers, and are not as likely to start prenatal care in their first trimesters.
"It’s the thing that wakes us up in the middle of the night as we try to understand it," Callaghan told the news site. "It’s access issues, differences in care based on geography, differences in health status -- it’s all these things … and we’re not going to find the one thing that causes it."
The problem may actually be worse as some states do not have maternal death review boards to track this information.
However, the CDC has been working with the Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs (AMCHP) to create review boards in all states. When the project began in 2012, there were 18 states with review boards, but today there are 39 states that have or are currently creating review boards.
In April, the CDC Foundation announced that it was working with the CDC and the AMCHP on three projects: a standardized (one-size fits all) data-collection and analysis tool; a web-based resource portal that will help states and jurisdictions do maternal mortality reviews; and a 2017 data report from all jurisdictions to aid in preventing maternal mortality.