August 16, 2018

The United States is the only industrialized country where the rate of maternal deaths has increased, not decreased, and we are ranked 46th in the world for maternal mortality, falling behind countries like Saudi Arabia and Kazakhstan. (CBS News; “Maternal Mortality: An American Crisis”; August 5, 2018)

This does not seem possible, and yet, the statistics are staggering. Here are some of the most important factors:

  • The rate at which US women opt for Cesarean sections (surgical delivery). This leads to surgical complications, which can be fatal.
  • Access to obstetrics healthcare, particularly in rural areas and for women in urban areas who struggle with health insurance and lack of resources. Women are being declined treatment, are receiving late prenatal care, or seeking care in emergency rooms, which is inconsistent and unspecialized.
  • US women are entering pregnancy later in life and many with pre-existing health conditions, such as obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.
  • The simple fact that women, and especially black women, are dismissed as less believable than male patients. Healthcare professionals are ignoring or diminishing what women say they are feeling and experiencing in their own bodies, leading to delays in treatment, misdiagnosis and death. Further, black women are 243% more likely to die from childbirth or pregnancy-related causes. (The Washington Post; “Beyoncé, Serena Williams open up about potentially fatal childbirths, a problem especially for black mothers”; August 7, 2018)

As our medical fields continue to evolve with new science and procedures, and despite an increasingly unstable healthcare system, these are not acceptable results for a nation that has the wealth, education and resources that we do.

It is the last point that really triggers the most angst in me as it correlates to the value of candor. Has the gender gap in our country, and our unconscious bias toward whites and men as more believable and knowledgeable, traveled so far beyond the classroom, boardroom, and courtroom, that it also exists in severe and devastating circumstances in the delivery room?

With frightening statistics that show our maternal mortality rate is unacceptable, we must come to terms with the fact that our healthcare system is failing too many women. And, we must create a culture that refuses to dismiss a women’s concerns for her body, her pregnancy and her baby.