Maternal Mortality

The 16th annual State of the World's Mothers report (PDF), funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Johnson & Johnson, has concluded that the United States of America now tracks as last among all developed nations in rates of maternal death. U.S. women now lose their life at a rate of 1 in 1,800 due to complications of pregnancy. These startling facts align with similar data gathered by the Center for Disease Control. In year’s past, women were dying of complications in pregnancy due to hemorrhage and pregnancy-related hypertension. Due to enhanced medical interventions, these rates have improved, but deaths due to reasons of cardiovascular and other chronic diseases have continued to rise. Data trends show that that the United States’ rising numbers of maternal deaths concurrently relates to the decline of overall women’s health.

Maternal Mortality

Furthermore, the CDC’s data concludes that among maternal deaths, a person’s race can also decrease or increase their probabilities of surviving pregnancy. The maternal death rate is 12.5 per 100,000 live births for white women, paralleled by 42.8 for black women and a 17.3 rate for women of all other ethnicities.

Though more research is certainly needed on this critical issue, there has been some recent data gathered in regards to the maternal death rates in Tennessee. In 2010, Amnesty International published a report entitled “Deadly Delivery: The Maternal Health Care Crisis in the USA” highlighting the risk of maternal death in the US as well as state-by-state. The report determined that from 1999 to 2004, there were 11.7 maternal deaths per 100,000 livebirths in Tennessee (ranking the state 38th of 50).  “The perception is that maternal mortality is not an issue, not only in the United States but Worldwide. We need to recognize this as an issue and start focusing on both the baby and the mother,” states Dr. Cornelia Graves, a high-risk gynecologist at Baptist Hospital in Nashville, TN in her comments to theTennessean at the time this report was published. Graves also concluded that if Tennessee were to track maternal deaths that the state would probably find that the rates are much higher than anticipated.

In 2016, the hope for the betterment of women’s health may have become a reality with the passage of the Maternal Mortality Review and Prevention Act of 2016. This law allows for the creation of an investigative panel that will be tasked with gathering data and highlighting health issues plagued by pregnant women in our area. With this data, we may begin to find very real interventions allowing for us as a State to bring women’s health care and maternal health to the forefront.

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Updated 09/12/17 by Nicole Rose