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Maternal mortality in modern America

It is common knowledge that maternal mortality rates tend to be high in many developing nations. When pregnant women do not have immediate access to skilled medical professionals, to state of the art medical facilities and to adequate prenatal care, their risk of dying in childbirth or as a result of childbirth-related complications rises.

However, women do not only die as a result of childbirth in the developing world. According to The Economist, the maternal mortality rate in The United States is an average of 18.5 women out of every 100,000 births. In recent years, the American maternal mortality rate has been increasing, as opposed to decreasing. Is medical malpractice to blame for the high rates of maternal mortality right here at home?

The reasons for high maternal mortality in the U.S. are not completely clear. Some experts insist that high death rates stem from the ways in which the American medical system categorizes causes of death, which may differ from the ways in which other countries do so. Other experts suggest that because many older women and women in high-risk circumstances are increasingly choosing to become pregnant, maternal mortality rates go up as a matter of course.

Others suggest that many pregnant women in poor health are failing to seek out necessary medical care. High rates of Caesarean section are also cited as reasons for high maternal mortality. Especially in regards to this last scenario, poor judgment on the part of physicians may be playing into high rates of maternal mortality in the U.S. Yet, medical malpractice is almost certainly not the only reason why so many women are dying as a result of childbirth.

Source: The Economist, “Death from childbirth is unusually common in America,” July 18, 2015

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