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Recent Maternal Health Statistics Signal Crisis

March 28, 2010

Amnesty International recently issued a report entitled “Deadly Delivery,” which describes a maternal health crisis due to the high number of women in the United States who die while giving birth.  Some highlights from the report include:

  • The likelihood of a woman’s dying in childbirth in the U.S. is five times as great as in Greece, four times as great as in Germany, and three times as great as in Spain.
  • Every day in the U.S., more than two women die of pregnancy-related causes, with the maternal mortality ratio doubling from 6.6 deaths per 100,000 births in 1987 to 13.3 deaths per 100,000 births in 2006.
  • Approximately half of the pregnancy-related deaths in the U.S. are preventable and the result of systemic failures, including barriers to accessing care; inadequate, neglectful or discriminatory care; and overuse of risky interventions like inducing labor and delivering via cesarean section
  • Black women in the U.S. are nearly four times as likely as white women to die from pregnancy-related causes.

You can read the entire report here.

On a related note, the New York Times reported last week that the Caesarean section rate in the United States reached 32 percent in 2007, which is the highest rate ever recorded.  The article notes that when needed, “a Caesarean can save the mother and her child from injury or death, but most experts doubt that one in three women need surgery to give birth. Critics say the operation is being performed too often, needlessly exposing women and babies to the risks of major surgery.”

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