Money Doesn’t Buy Happiness… or Life, Apparently!

The United States has a higher ratio of maternal deaths than 40 other countries around the world, even though it spends more money per capita on maternity care than any other! [1]

The notion that the United States is the safest nation in the world to give birth is a misnomer according to this alarming statistic. Ranked below many of its industrialized counterparts, the United States even falls below a developing country like South Korea. [2]

Before all you advocates for socialized medicine start pointing fingers at the conservative policy makers against Obama-care, take a closer look at the reasons for this alarming statistic. While I’m a firm believer that all women should have some basic access to prenatal care, other factors contribute to the US’ poor ranking. Of all births in the United States, 29% are caesarean section. C-sections increase the risk of excessive bleeding which contributes to higher maternal mortality rates. Secondly, a spike in obesity may be a factor. Overweight women tend to be diabetic or experience other complications that affect pregnancy outcomes. Additionally, more women are giving birth in their late 30s and 40s when risks of pregnancy complications are higher. Lastly, the fact that more states are using a separate item on their death certificate indicating pregnancy status of the woman has huge implications on data collection accuracy. [2]

Unlike infant mortality, maternal mortality is far more complicated to calculate since women of childbearing age die of various reasons that may be directly or indirectly related to a pregnancy in various health institutions. An example of this is included in The Journal of Perinatal Education. Lara Nuerge Schultz died of a pulmonary embolism in an Ohio hospital a month after she gave birth in a Pennsylvania hospital. It’s possible that her death was not recorded as pregnancy-related. [1]

In an effort to combat this unreliable data collection, 24 states have begun including sections on their death certificates that ask direct questions regarding maternity care. These states are listed below:

California
Colorado
Connecticut
Florida
Georgia
Illinois
Indiana
Kansas
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Minnesota
Nevada
New Jersey
New York
Ohio
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Washington

While the United States is still a long way from a federally mandated way to accurately collect maternal mortality data, these 24 states are helping the data collection process. A ranking of 41st, is alarming, but problems can’t be corrected unless proper data is analyzed and recommendations are offered to health providers and to the public. The United States is making strides towards accounting for their maternal mortalities, is South Korea?

[1] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2409165/
[2] http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=39642

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