Deaths among women related to childbirth are increasing; researchers finding out why

Published: Mar. 21, 2019 at 12:22 PM EDT
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The number of women dying from a complication related to childbirth in the United States is the highest of any developed country.

The statistics are starting to filter out in hopes of educating pregnant women of their risk factors.

About 700 women die each year from complications across the nation.

"There's no question about the fact that regardless, maternal mortality has increased," Dr. Quinetta Johnson explained. "You have several different avenues that are all contributing to this increase in maternal mortality."

One reason our rates of maternal death are so high is because of advances in medicine. For instance, a woman with congenital heart disease probably wouldn't have lived long enough to have children. Now, they are.

"They want to be mothers so they go ahead and once it happens, then we as OBGYN doctors and the high-risk specialists and cardiologists, we just deal with what comes and try to do our best to get the best outcome for mom and baby," Johnson said.

Also a contributor to the high rate of deaths -- the drug epidemic.

"Those complications with opioid use as well as overdose also are increasing maternal mortality across the nation."

Johnson says not only are the numbers going up, but the number of African American women dying during childbirth is two to three times more than the already high number of white and Hispanic women.

"Whether we like it or not, there's going to be racial discrimination, racial disparities."

Johnson said factors for the higher rate for African American women are the stress of being a minority, distrust of the healthcare system, doctors with bias, and, even though it's improved, she said there are still issues for minorities with access to care.

"It's one of those things that from every level it's going to impact the maternal mortality in an unfavorable manner toward black women."

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