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How does 'severe maternal morbidity' impact mothers in the United States?

Unfortunately, maternal mortalities and near-fatal obstetric complications are common in the United States. In fact, the country has one of the highest rates of maternal mortalities compared to other high-income countries throughout North America and Western Europe.

Even when expecting mothers survive their complications, negative effects remain. They, as well as their families, must live with the emotional, physical and financial consequences of an obstetric emergency.

What three factors lead to a high risk of maternal mortality in the United States?

The World Health Organization (WHO) outlines potential causes of the uptick in the maternal mortality rate, as related to pregnancy and childbirth. These risk factors include:

  • Substantial lack of standardized obstetric practice
  • Mothers with health conditions, like obesity, hypertension (pre-eclampsia and eclampsia) and diabetes

A standard approach for doctors and nurses to follow in case of pregnancy-related emergencies does not exist. This can potentially lead to unequal treatment of obstetric emergencies in hospitals across the United States. For example, some health centers may be better equipped to handle obstetric crises than others.

Also, conditions such as pre-eclampsia and eclampsia, endanger both the mother and child. If healthcare professionals do not appropriately recognize or treat these conditions, they can turn from dangerous to fatal. Pre-eclampsia is one of the main causes of maternal mortalities in the nation.

Life-threatening complications

Not all pregnancy and childbirth-related complications result in fatalities. However, many near-fatal situations leave mothers traumatized and infants with birth injuries.

NPR states women suffer from dangerous and life-threatening complications at a rapidly increasing rate. Around 50,000 women face near-fatal situations during pregnancy, or after childbirth every year.

According to the World Health Organization, about half of maternal mortalities in the United States are preventable. Therefore, medical professionals, hospitals and the healthcare industry should be held accountable because obstetric crises leave the lasting emotional, physical and financial burdens obstetric crises leave on mothers and families throughout the United States.

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