- The United States is the ‘most dangerous’ developed country to give birth in, according to a July 2018 investigative report conducted by Alison Young of USA Today.
- The investigation, which took place over four years, reported that about 700 mothers in the US die from childbirth and another 50,000 are severely injured each year.
- Many of the problems reportedly stemmed from medical professionals neglecting to do basic procedures.
In a recent interview with Business Insider, Melinda Gates said material death rates are an “incredibly disturbing” trend that she and husband Bill Gates would be addressing in their upcoming letter about global health issues. And she isn’t wrong. In July 2018, USA Today released a four-year-long investigation led by reporter Alison Young, which found that the United States is the most dangerous developed country for women to give birth.
The “care” the report refers to are practices that have been around for years, such as weighing bloody pads to track dangerous blood loss and giving medicine to a patient with very high blood pressures so they don’t have a stroke.
And while the US death rates are rising, other developed countries are experiencing all-time lows in childbirth deaths.
“Countries around the world have reduced maternal deaths and injuries by aggressively monitoring care and learning from mistakes,” USA Today reported. “The result has been two decades of steady or reduced maternal harms in the rest of the developed world – as US rates climbed.”
To conduct their research, USA Today reporters looked at cases of over 150 women who were either killed or seriously injured giving birth and got a hold of more than 500,000 internal hospital quality records. Reporters then reached out to 75 hospitals and investigated if they were following recommended practices.
USA Today reporters found less than half of the mothers were treated for high blood pressure and in some cases, less than 15% of mothers were treated correctly.
Dr. Steven Clark, a leading childbirth safety expert and a professor at Baylor College of Medicine, told USA Today, “our medicine is run by cowboys today, where everyone is riding the range doing whatever they’re wanting to do. It’s a failure at all levels, at national organisation levels and at the local hospital leadership levels as well.”
There is one exception to the uptick in birthing deaths, however: California. USA Today reported the maternal death rate in the state has actually fallen. The state’s hospitals have been working with safety experts and their practices are held as the “gold standard of care,” according to the report.
Most US hospitals reportedly aren’t following these standards, as the government doesn’t have a good way to ensure hospitals are training and enforcing their staffs to do so.
“Experts say the slow pace of change is largely because, in this country, doctors and hospitals enjoy wide latitude in how they practice medicine,” USA Today reported. “When researchers identify safer ways of caring for patients, there are no mandates that providers read or follow these practices. In maternity care – as well as other areas of medicine – it can take a decade or more for best practices to be widely adopted by healthcare providers.”
Dr. James Martin Jr., director of maternal-fetal medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and a past president of The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), told USA Today for countries like the UK, where women are dying at a third the rate of woman in the US, it is easier to make hospitals follow standard safety practices as they have publicly funded healthcare systems.
“Without a centralised system, reform will require multiple entities to insist on change: hospital administrators, insurance companies and others that pay for childbirth, and malpractice insurers who defend practitioners against lawsuits,” Martin told USA Today.
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