The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released a somber research showing that the vast majority of maternal deaths in the United States are avoidable. The research from September 2022 states that 80% of pregnancy-related deaths can be prevented if healthcare for mothers is improved, more people have access to high-quality care, and more people are aware of the gaps in healthcare that lead to these avoidable deaths.
Maternal mortality soared throughout the epidemic, and the United States already had one of the worst rates of any developed country. This paper from the CDC sheds insight on the causes of this alarming trend and suggests ways forward.
In this report, the high rate of avoidability stands out as the most crucial finding. Nearly eighty percent of the fatalities could have been avoided. The importance of postpartum care and preventative measures is highlighted.
Where Does Maternal Death Rate Come From?
In most people’s minds, “maternal mortality” immediately conjures up images of a woman passing away while giving birth. However, the CDC report’s definition of maternal mortality includes the entire nine months of pregnancy, the time of delivery, and the first year after the baby is born.
According to the CDC data, of all deaths, 22% occurred during pregnancy, 25% after birth, and 5% in the week following. What is most striking, though, is that 53 percent of these deaths occurred after delivery.
It’s really encouraging that the CDC counts deaths that occur after delivery as maternal deaths. Historically, the term “maternal mortality” refers to the loss of a mother within the first six weeks after giving birth.
How Common Is Pregnancy-Related Death?
This analysis examined not only the racial and ethnic disparities in preventable mortality rates but also the factors that contribute to these rates.
Health issues among persons of childbearing age (23%) were the major cause of mortality; this category includes suicide and drug overdose deaths. Bleeding and heart disease were also major contributors to mortality (14% and 13%, respectively). In addition, infections, blood clots, and cardiomyopathy accounted for 9 percent of all deaths (a hereditary condition affecting the heart muscle). About seven percent of maternal fatalities were attributable to hypertension during pregnancy.
Disease presentations varied significantly among racial and ethnic groups. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that maternal mortality among African-Americans was highest due to cardiac conditions. Hispanics and non-Hispanic Whites have the highest prevalence of mental health issues. Bleeding was the greatest cause of death among Asian Americans. Approximately half of all known causes of mortality among American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) parents were related to mental health issues or bleeding.
How can we reduce maternal mortality?
According to the CDC research, preventable deaths are those that could have been avoided with “reasonable modifications” made to the expecting parent, community, healthcare provider, provider facility, or system. Therefore, it is crucial to address issues including lack of access to healthcare, insufficient support systems, and biases held by medical professionals who care for new parents. That includes tackling systemic barriers, like making sure all expectant parents can afford health insurance.
Medical professionals emphasize the need to make healthcare practitioners accountable for issues such as racial bias. To ensure that parents are cared for by clinicians with whom they are most comfortable, it is necessary to diversify the healthcare workforce.
It is also crucial that people who require medical attention have access to high-quality services. Pregnancy-related disorders that might cause major morbidity or mortality are easier to spot when patients receive routine preconception, antenatal, and postpartum care.
Prenatal care for expectant mothers should begin as soon as possible, according to her. Healthy pregnancy outcomes can be improved with prenatal education on topics such as nutrition, exercise, immunizations, and smoking and alcohol cessation. Moreover, as the CDC report emphasizes, it is crucial to ensure that parents have access to adequate healthcare during the postpartum time. Efforts to reduce maternal morbidity and death should be made at the governmental level to ensure that the uninsured have access to health care for at least a year after giving birth.
Systemic adjustments are needed immediately to ensure that minority women have access to care that could save their lives. On the other hand, it’s crucial to keep things in perspective on a smaller scale.
Thoughts of the reality that maternal mortality is still a major problem in the United States in 2022 can be upsetting. The bulk of these deaths, however, are avoidable, as this recent CDC research highlights. There are measures that may be taken to guarantee that all expecting and new parents have access to the best medical care possible.
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