A recent study done by the University of Maryland revealed some stunning statistics around maternal mortality (mother’s dying) in the United States. In the United Kingdom there are approximately 8.2 deaths per 100,000. Canada is at 6.6 deaths per 100,000 and Italy is the lowest at 3.9. If you’re wondering where the United States fits it, we average 16.7 deaths per 100,000. (Maybe you should go to Italy to have a baby.)
Not included in that number for the United States are suicides due to Post-Partum Depression which would drive those numbers up about 5 percent more. Of the 181 nations included in this data, the United States ranks 39th. These numbers put us in a negative category below almost every other industrialized nation. It also puts America nearly at its highest rate of these types of deaths in the last 25 years. An article in the Washington Post stated that, “A woman giving birth in America is now more likely to die than a woman giving birth in China.” The United States is in a very unique group of only eight other countries in the world where these death rates are climbing
In 1987 the death rate in America was only about 7.2 per 100,000, and now we have more than doubled that number. The analytics involved in sorting through this data seem to point toward several areas of concern including: more mothers with diabetes, more overweight mothers, drug abuse, the impact of the H1N1 virus on pregnancies, women having children later in life, and a myriad of other qualitative indicators.
This, however, is not the most shocking statistic for the United States. If you look at a State by State comparison, Texas has seen a doubling in maternal deaths between 2011 to 2012, 23.8 deaths per 100,000. These numbers come from the health data study led by Dr. Marian MacDorman at the University of Maryland.
Other disturbing Texas factors seem to fall into some very religious and politically loaded categories. As most of you are aware, Texas voted to defund Planned Parenthood which has resulted in the closing of numerous centers, limiting access to healthcare to many women.
The controversy over Planned Parenthood revolves around abortions, but Planned Parenthood provides 2.7million men and women annually with birth control, cancer screenings, STI testing and treatment, and well-woman exams. Abortions represented only 3 percent of its services. Then in 2012, the federal government discontinued Medicaid funding of the Women’s Health Program. That meant that Texas had to make up those lost funds. Consequently, the number of women served dropped significantly between 2011 and 2013. These changes resulted in a significant lack of access to healthcare.
The second disturbing Texas factor is that, if you are a person of color, there is a greater chance that you could experience maternal mortality.
This was not intended to be racially charged or a pro-life or pro-choice column. It was, however, intended to demonstrate what was referred to in the Iraq war as collateral damage. What happens when religious based political decisions are made that disrupt care for nearly 50% of those individuals needing that care if those changes are not being addressed elsewhere?
The Jeff Daniels speech from the HBO series Newsroom has to make us stop and think about where we are and where we’re going as a divided country: “We’re seventh in literacy, twenty-seventh in math, twenty-second in science, forty-ninth in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, number four in labor force, and number four in exports. We lead the world in only a few categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, . . . and defense spending, where we spend more than the next twenty-six countries combined, twenty-five of whom are allies.”
But I guess we could always be worse. The number of maternal deaths per 100,000 in Afghanistan, is 1575.