Why are so many women in the United States facing death or permanent injury in childbirth?
As one of the nations with the most advanced medical care in the world, the rate of maternal injury in childbirth should be falling — not rising. Yet, American women are finding it increasingly risky to be pregnant and give birth. Not only are their unborn children in danger, so are they.
A congressional committee is trying to find the reasons behind this troubling trend. Due to the fact that it has been difficult for private investigations to get answers, the committee is now asking hospitals around the nation for information. It wants to know how the hospitals identify women who are at risk of injury during their pregnancy or delivery and what methods the hospitals are using to track the outcomes of each pregnancy. The committee also wants to know what medical professionals are doing to improve maternal safety during childbirth.
Previous studies and anecdotal evidence have indicated that hospitals may be skipping some standard practices that could easily be used to improve conditions. Roughly 500,000 women suffer serious injuries in childbirth each year — and around 700 of those women will die of complications. There’s a huge racial disparity as well that’s unexplained. Black mothers are up to four times more likely to be injured or die during childbirth than white women.
According to previous investigations, at least half of those injuries and deaths are preventable. It just requires better diagnostic procedures to identify maternal risks earlier in the pregnancies.
In all, Congress has asked more than a dozen of the biggest hospital systems to respond. Those systems are responsible for running over 900 hospitals and oversee the delivery of one out of every five births in the nation.
Most people think that birth injuries only happen to infants these days. The idea that women are in serious danger when they give birth has not really been in the public’s consciousness for a long time now. These recent investigations may change that — and that’s good news for women. A preventable injury during childbirth is a tragedy that should never happen.