In the US, it is a difficult statistic to swallow...the US maternal mortality rate is rising. The rate rose in 2004 from 12/100,000 to 13/100,000. That was the first rise since 1977 and due, in part to the rise in the cesarean section rate.
But why in a country who boasts about the quality of health care and the nearly continuous use of technology at birth would the maternal mortality rate rise?
According to Dr. Elliot Main, who co-chairs a panel reviewing obstetrics care in California, "As you do thousands and thousands of them (cesarean sections), there's going to be a price."
With infection and blood vessel blockage leading the way as causes of death, we also have to look at the fact that black women are experiencing a maternal death rate THREE TIMES greater than it is for caucasian women. Black women are more susceptible to complications like high blood pressure and are more likely to receive inadequate prenatal care.
What is even more disturbing is that three different studies have indicated that at least 40% of maternal deaths could have been prevented. Obesity has a share in the growing statistic of maternal death - 1/3 of pregnant women were outside of the weight guidelines for healthy pregnancies which puts women at a greater risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and...cesarean sections.
So what should happen?
Perhaps instead of flooding the newswire with reports about Angelina Jolie's "amazing" post-pregnancy body, we need to have more news stories about education for early pregnancy. While some of us who have been in the birth business for years may be weary about saying it all again, the new generation of pregnant women (be they teens or older) may have never read a book or an internet site talking about pregnancy health, good and early prenatal care, or pregnancy nutrition.
And here is another disturbing fact: only 33% of expectant women attend childbirth education classes and get this valuable information albeit sometimes too late. Why is that? I will explore that in my next post.