Maternal Mortality and Health
The creation of life maintains its position as one of nature’s most important tools. As one generation leaves the world, a new one appears to continue the legacies. Humanity has progressed to create many tools and systems to aid the givers of life: mothers. Unfortunately, due to a large lack of prioritization, these developments haven’t reached their full potential and require updates. As a result, those who raise the new generation aren’t provided vital resources to thrive or even live in society. It must be society’s job to implement better policies to care for maternal health during and after pregnancy to prevent illness or mortality.
There are three different types of maternal mortality. Pregnancy-associated death doesn’t occur due to the pregnancy. It happens while pregnant or within one-year of the end of pregnancy. Death by pregnancy complications during pregnancy or within a year of the end of pregnancy is pregnancy-related death. Maternal mortality happens while pregnant or within 42-days of the end of pregnancy because of pregnancy complications. 52 percent of these deaths transpire postpartum as a consequence of severe bleeding, high blood pressure, infection, and cardiomyopathy—a heart muscle disease. In Norway, three deaths happen every 100-thousand births. However, in the United States (US) during 2018, there were 17 deaths for every 100-thousand births—more than double the ratio of other high-income countries.
To understand these issues, one must take a look at the current state of the maternal healthcare system. Compared to other countries, the US and Canada have a shortage of maternal care providers. Midwives or obstetrician-gynecologists (OB-GYNs) are important during and after pregnancy in maintaining the health of a mother. Midwives provide many services, such as assisting in childbirth, postpartum care, and aiding in the social or personal relations of the mother and baby. OB-GYNs are physicians who ensure that there are no abnormalities before, during, and after pregnancy. According to a paper written by CommonWealth Fund, midwives have been proven to show care better or similarly to OB-GYNs because of their positive outcomes. Midwives exhibit lower maternal mortality, reduced stillbirths, better mental health postpartum, and lessened use of potentially dangerous procedures. The scarcity of these trained professionals in the US have contributed to the high maternal mortality rates today.
In addition to the absence of maternal care providers, the lack of postpartum care leads to a decline in mothers mental health. Only certain health plans cover postpartum care, resulting in many not receiving care post-birth. Also, the US does not require employers to provide paid leave after childbirth, even though the leave allows for mothers to “manage the physiological and psychological demands of motherhood and helps ensure financial security for families” (Tikkanen). The stress of taking care of a newborn while balancing a career places an immense amount of pressure on one's mental health. Although studies suggest that postpartum depression rates are the same for women of all ethnicities and races, postpartum healthcare disparities are heightened for women of color as they have less access to postpartum care and often have to face biases from their healthcare providers.
Lawmakers and insurance companies have the power to eliminate these gaps and improve maternal health. First, the US must find ways to increase the population of midwives and OB-GYNs in the country. Providing incentives to pursue the career or simply promoting the job may help increase the number of healthcare providers. Next, insurance companies must cover postpartum care because it is just as vital as care during a pregnancy. The World Health Organization recommends having four doctor visits within the first few weeks of postpartum. Also, lawmakers need to enforce a guaranteed paid maternity leave to prevent stress postpartum. Finally, lawmakers must fix the racial disparities through changes in the law and require better training for physicians to eliminate biases against minority women. Although there are currently many gaps in maternal care, there is hope for the future. Between 2000 to 2017, the global maternal mortality ratio decreased by 38 percent. In addition, acts like the affordable care act have begun protecting mothers’ rights in the workplace and insurance. Society must continue to develop their tools and systems to progress the maternal healthcare system and prevent maternal mortality.
“Maternal Mortality.” UNICEF DATA, Sept. 2019, data.unicef.org/topic/maternal-health/maternal-mortality.
Oribhabor, Geraldine I, et al. “A Mother’s Cry: A Race to Eliminate the Influence of Racial Disparities on Maternal Morbidity and Mortality Rates Among Black Women in America.” Cureus, vol. 12, no. 7, 2020, p. e9207. Crossref, doi:10.7759/cureus.9207.
Tikkanen, Roosa, et al. “Maternal Mortality and Maternity Care in the United States Compared to 10 Other Developed Countries.” The Commonwealth Fund, 18 Nov. 2020, www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/issue-briefs/2020/nov/maternal-mortality-maternity-care-us-compared-10-countries.