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Maternal Mortality in the United States is Worse Than Every Other Developed Country in the World and Midwives can Save Lives


By Ginger Breedlove

Is the maternal mortality rate in the United States really higher than every other developed country in the world?

Yes, and it’s getting worse.

Considering the magnitude of this public health crisis, it’s astounding how few seem to be aware that thousands of mothers are dying every year for reasons that are largely avoidable. Due to this lack of attention, even fewer are working to alleviate the varied factors that contribute to this issue.

Despite how little publicity the issue of maternal mortality has received, dedicated healthcare professionals have begun to ask tough questions. Their findings are startling.

When we are frustrated with something challenging in our personal lives, we typically do something to change it. When we have a close friend or family member in crisis, we typically respond with a call, personal visit, organize support; some kind of action.  

Below are some of the most important facts and figures you need to know about maternal mortality in the United States.

Can the zip code one lives in contribute to risks in pregnancy and birth?

Absolutely as reported by the CDC. Improved, required reporting will continue to unveil the untold story of how women in the Southern Poverty Block in the US are most affected.

Does institutional racism play a significant role in the childbearing outcomes of African American families?

YES, watch the 2017 Fusion Video, Death by Delivery, and learn more about how this occurs in the US.

Do income level and insurance status correlate to increased risk for maternal and infant morbidity? Do they contribute to other issues including prematurity, low birth weight, readmission post-discharge, and increased rate of cesarean section?

They’re a part of the problem, compounded by limited access to affordable insurance, few receipts of wraparound services for social support, and women being punished by healthcare systems due to their inability to pay.

Do local hospitals publicly report data on maternal health outcomes related to quality and safety for increased transparency and consumer awareness?

In less than 20 years, The Leapfrog Group has grown exponentially—now reporting data on more than 1,800 hospitals, with regional partnerships in 38 states. We have a long way to go for hospitals to be willing to report maternal health outcomes related to safety and quality.

Do Midwives actively engage in community conversations to address challenges of maternity care services and assist in designing action plans to improve systems of care?

This question requires personal reflection, and readiness to engage in ways not considered before. If not you, who, if not now, when?

Are all maternity healthcare workers allowed to practice to the full scope of their education, training, and licensure? Are communities willing to step up to assist in a full scope of practice for regulatory changes?

Midwives are challenged to full entry into the workforce in many regions of the US. A current article provides background on the politics of why. By Yang, “States with regulations that support autonomous midwifery practice have a larger nurse-midwifery workforce and a greater proportion of CNM-attended births.

Correlations between autonomous practice laws and better birth outcomes suggest future policy efforts to enhance access to midwifery services may be beneficial to pregnancy outcomes and infant health.”

Why then, when we acknowledge that social injustice, health care inequity, and institutional racism all correlate with the highest rate of maternal and infant death in the developed world, do we typically do little more than share social media posts?

Why has no one acted on the mounting evidence displayed in maternal health publications and at Continuing Education events?

History demonstrates the only successful path to change is by activating and engaging common passion in an organized fashion. The decision to engage and become active in a social cause rests wholly within ourselves.

If you want to improve maternal, infant, and family health in the United States and in your local community, you need to do more than observe from afar, you need to grow a movement. We at Grow Midwives are tired of sitting on the sideline, so we are answering the call by creating a way for you to get involved!

Grow Midwives first live-cast Webinar will be from the CDC in Atlanta following the Facebook live stream of their gathering on Nov 14th, “Meeting the Challenges of Measuring and Preventing Maternal Mortality in the US.”

Watch the free CDC webinar here.

Lesley Rathbun and I will provide a Midwife response following the Grand Rounds presentation. We will discuss and explore how Midwives can participate and engage in actionable steps to assist in reversing this devastating and growing crisis in our country. Listen, ask questions, and share what you learn with your community! Midwives are part of the answer and together we can lower the maternal and infant morbidity rate!

If you would like to speak with Grow Midwives about creating a collaborative care team that incorporates midwives, head over to our contact page and fill out the form!


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