Friday, October 1, 2010

Petition to Congress: Report Maternal Deaths

Amnesty International has brought media attention to the maternal mortality rate with the installation of the International Maternal Death Clock in New York's Times Square on September 20th. Yes, this is an international crisis that deserves immediate action. But every time I see an article or hear a news report about how many mothers die elsewhere, I feel compelled to bring even more attention to the current estimated mortality rate of the United States.

Data from death certificates compiled by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics indicated the annual maternal mortality rate to remain approximately 7.5 deaths per 100,000 births from 1982-1996. Between the years of 1996 and 2003 the approximate maternal mortality rate increased from 8.5/100,000 to 12.1/100,000. In the year of 2006 a total of 569 women were reported to have died from maternal causes and the maternal mortality rate for this year rose to about 13.3 deaths per 100,000 births. Since 1982 the United States has been largely ineffective at lowering the current mortality rate and in recent years the number has been rising.

As a nation we moved further away from our Healthy People 2010 goal of reducing the maternal mortality rate and, rather than addressing this issue, we pushed it back as a goal for Healthy People 2020. Despite the $86 billion dollars we spend on pregnancy and childbirth, more than every other nation in the world, we offer our mothers substandard care that is focused on high rates of intervention (and thus high rates of cesarean section) and outcomes that rank us 41st in terms of maternal mortality according to The World Health Organization.

What is most disturbing is that this number is a very rough estimate as only 6 of our great nation’s states require mandatory reporting of a maternal death and only 21 states have maternal mortality review boards for their state. How can we properly assess our present situation and implement corrective action when our country does not even have an accurate and standardized reporting system of such information?

This nation needs to implement a standardized system that evaluates periodically how many women die yearly as a result of complications of pregnancy, during childbirth, and as a result of childbirth (with particular attention paid to women who are readmitted to the hospital after complications of cesarean delivery).

It's shocking that with as much money as our country spends on health care and on maternity care in particular that we don't simply keep track of the mothers that are dying and why. Please sign this petition to Congress to simply make maternal death reporting mandatory. It's the only way we can begin to be a safer place to give birth.

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