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Maternal mortality rates rise in U.S. despite so-called 'improvements' in healthcare

Maternal mortality

(NaturalNews) Maternal mortality rates in the United States have continued to climb, even as the chance of pregnancy-related death has fallen in nearly every other country on earth. Compared with other wealthy nations, the failure of the U.S. in this essential metric of women's health is particularly striking.

The findings come from a new data analysis conducted by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. Researchers noted that the deaths have paradoxically corresponded with a period of supposed improvement in the quality of healthcare in the United States.

"The first time I saw our results for the United States, I thought there must be some error," researcher Nicholas J. Kassebaum said. "I actually started looking for what went wrong in the data processing."

The data held up, however – and are in line with other recent analyses showing that this is the most deadly time in recent history to be pregnant in the United States.

U.S. rate worse than both Russia and Romania

The researchers found that between 2000 and 2015, global maternal death rates fell by more than a third. In the United States, however, the death rate increased by more than 20 percent from 2005 to 2013. The increase since 1990 was more than 50 percent.

Only 24 of more than 200 nations saw increases in maternal death rates between 2000 and 2015, and nearly none of them were wealthy countries.

Out of every 100,000 pregnant women in the United States, 28 will now die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related complications. This is now higher than the rate in Russia, Vietnam, Romania or Iran.

Other recent studies bear out this trend. A few months ago, another analysis concluded that from 2000 to 2014, the maternal mortality rates increased by 27 percent in 48 states and the District of Columbia. In Texas, the increase was nearly 50 percent.

The rate of maternal mortality is particularly high among black women. According to U.S. government figures, a black woman is three times more likely to die of pregnancy- or childbirth-related causes than her white counterparts.

Obesity, c-sections may be to blame

The researchers said that in spite of advances in medicine, there had been no change in death rates from traditional causes of maternal death such as hemorrhage or eclampsia. While this can be considered a failure of the U.S.'s supposedly advanced healthcare system, it also cannot explain the ongoing increase in death rates.

The blame also does not seem to fall on the tendency for women to get pregnant later in life. The researchers found that maternal mortality rates increased across all age groups.

The researchers suggested that most of the blame might fall on the increasing prevalence of chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease among younger women.

"The really scary thing to us is all the deaths from cardiovascular disease and heart failure," said William Callaghan of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who was not involved in the study. "It's a quarter of all deaths. There were almost none in the remote past."

According to most experts, U.S. maternal mortality rates plateaued through the 1980s and 1990s, then began increasing around the year 2000.

The problem with this explanation is that rates of obesity-related diseases have also increased in wealthy countries that saw a fall in maternal deaths. Kassebaum suggested that perhaps the United States is just ahead of the curve in seeing the results of its own obesity epidemic, and maternal mortality rates will start to climb in other wealthy countries soon.

Another explanation, of course, is the major factor that separates the United States from most of its fellow wealthy nations: an astronomically high rate of cesarean section deliveries. The World Health Organization suggests that a 10 to 15 percent c-section rate reflects medical necessity; the U.S. rate is nearly one-third.

"We, as providers, know that surgery carries more risk for mother and baby, " said nurse-midwife Elise Turner.

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