Trying to turn the tide on maternal mortality

Trying to turn the tide on maternal mortality

America has an alarming problem involving the number of women dying during childbirth, with experts noting women in the U.S. today are more likely to die during childbirth than were their own mothers.

The U.S. maternal mortality rate is double that of other industrialized nations. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show more than 700 women die from pregnancy-related complications each year in the U.S.

But remedies are available, public health experts and advocates said at a recent congressional hearing. Investing in midwifery services and the maternal health workforce, along with extending Medicaid, would reap real benefits.

A midwifery professor testified that underserved women often can’t access needed care, while other women receive interventions they don’t need. Midwifery, she said, provides interventions as needed, reducing the risk of negative outcomes.

In the U.S., midwives are used in 10% of births. In contrast, in countries with better maternal health outcomes such as England, the Netherlands and Australia, midwives are the main providers. Obstetricians specialize in high-risk pregnancies.

Other recommendations included ensuring women have access to affordable health care before, during and after pregnancy. That could include expanding Medicaid services for at least one year postpartum. Only 20% of workers have paid leave from employers, and witnesses said children of mothers with paid leave are more likely to be breastfed, have medical check-ups and receive immunizations.

The statistics on maternal mortality are sobering, but advocates are zeroing in on ways to protect moms and the next generations of Americans.

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