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Mothers deserve better care

Ahead of Mother’s Day, a frightening story about the mortality rate of moms during childbirth deserves more attention.

NPR and the news organization Propublica reported Friday that as the healthcare system has focused on saving babies during deliveries, it has neglected mothers.

“American women are more than three times as likely as Canadian women to die in the maternal period (defined by the Centers for Disease Control as the start of pregnancy to one year after delivery or termination), six times as likely to die as Scandinavians. In every other wealthy country, and many less affluent ones, maternal mortality rates have been falling,” the story reported. “In Great Britain, the rate has declined so dramatically that a man is more likely to die while his partner is pregnant than she is. But in the U.S., maternal deaths increased from 2000 to 2014. In a recent analysis by the CDC Foundation, nearly 60 percent of such deaths are preventable.”

That’s a shocking indictment of our nation’s healthcare system. The reasons for the high mortality rate are many, the story says.

“New mothers are older than they used to be, with more complex medical histories. Half of pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned, so many women don’t address chronic health issues beforehand. Greater prevalence of C-sections leads to more life-threatening complications. The fragmented health system makes it harder for new mothers, especially those without good insurance, to get the care they need. Confusion about how to recognize worrisome symptoms and treat obstetric emergencies makes caregivers more prone to error.”

Operating under the assumption that maternal mortality was a thing of the past, the healthcare system turned its attention to babies. And the results show it. The infant mortality rate has fallen to its lowest point in history.

That’s tremendous progress for infant mortality, but mothers deserve the same care and attention. Mothers deserve better than this.