If you are expecting a baby and you live in the United States, you might not have given much thought to maternal mortality. After all, we have some of the best hospitals and best doctors in the world. Very few women should be dying in childbirth now that we have access to state-of-the-art care.
Unfortunately, that’s not always how it works out. Many women die each year in this country, despite our advanced healthcare capabilities. Here’s what you need to know about maternal mortality and why it should be a major concern for any woman expecting a baby now or in the near future.
Maternal Health Disparity Issues & Statistics
Although it’s true that women today are much more likely to survive childbirth than they were in the past, hundreds of women still die each year due to pregnancy and childbirth. Many of these deaths are entirely preventable (more than 60%, studies indicate) and devastate families.
Severe healthcare disparities exist in maternal care, with Black women being 3 times more likely to die from pregnancy and childbirth conditions than white women. American Indian/Alaska Native women also face much higher maternal mortality rates.
It would be nice to believe that maternal health just keeps getting better, but that’s not the case. In fact, maternal deaths are trending upward, despite the fact that technology and medical care keeps improving. Among young women (25-34) in the United States, complications of childbirth or pregnancy are the sixth most common cause of death.
Even if you are not part of a high-risk group, it’s important to take maternal mortality seriously. Taking precautions to keep yourself safe could help ensure that you don’t become a statistic. Among high-income countries, the United States is ranked worst for maternal mortality.
Tips And Resources For A Healthy Pregnancy
When you consider how many women give birth in the United States each year, it’s reassuring to realize that most of these births go fairly smoothly. With that said, most issues can be prevented if caught early. Here are some tips for a healthy pregnancy.
- Find a healthcare provider you can trust
Many of the maternal health disparities we see in the United States stem from healthcare providers relying on assumptions and stereotypes when working with Black or American Indian patients. Women in these groups often struggle to be taken seriously and may not get the same level of care as a white, Hispanic, or Asian patient.
While it’s unacceptable that women face discrimination during their pregnancies, it’s important to do everything you can to find a doctor who will truly support and respect you. Early in your pregnancy, do some research to find the right healthcare provider.
- Cultivate healthy habits
You increase your chances of a smooth and healthy delivery by sticking to healthy habits during your pregnancy. Staying active (without overdoing it) will help you improve your overall health and may help prevent excess weight gain during pregnancy. Getting enough sleep is also important.
Take your prenatal vitamins and make sure to eat as healthfully as possible. With that said, it’s really okay to give in to those cravings sometimes! A healthy pregnancy doesn’t have to mean depriving yourself of what you really want.
Finally, you should make sure to drink lots of water. Your body is working very hard during pregnancy, so make sure you stay well-hydrated. Limit your caffeine intake, and of course, avoid alcohol and cigarettes!
- Create a birth plan
When you’re in labor, it’s easy to forget what you do and don’t want. Plan ahead by writing out a clear birth plan with all the details that are important to you, from who you want to be present at the birth to what kind of medications you want to what should happen if complications occur. This will be key for ensuring you get the care you need when you need it.
The birth plan can go beyond the essentials if you want. You can even specify details like what kind of music to play for your peace of mind during the birth.
- Educate yourself
During your pregnancy, it’s a good idea to educate yourself as much as possible. Know the warning signs of pregnancy complications like eclampsia and gestational diabetes. That way, you will know when to reach out to your healthcare provider.
- Don’t hesitate to call your doctor
Remember, two-thirds of maternal deaths are preventable. Make sure you stay in close communication with your doctor to avoid serious complications. Don’t hesitate to call if something seems “off” during your pregnancy. It’s better to raise a false alarm than to ignore a real problem.
How To Help Improve The Maternal Health Mortality Gap
Whether you are part of a high-risk group or not, we all have a responsibility to help improve the maternal mortality gap. Women are dying needlessly because they are not being given the care they need during pregnancy.
Overall, hospitals are shifting to patient-centered care and diving into healthcare quality management, which is a positive development. However, this needs to be paired with more awareness of health disparities, local vulnerable communities the hospitals serve, and greater access to key maternal health services.
Prevention and education are key to improving the disparities. Healthcare professionals can do their part by becoming advocates and leaders within the industry. Individuals can help by educating and raising awareness among their own sphere of influence.
Many people are still unaware that maternal mortality is a growing issue in the United States. Fortunately, there are resources out there for education and advocacy, such as events that take place on Maternal Health Awareness Day.
No woman should die from preventable complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. Closing the maternal mortality gap won’t happen overnight, but it’s crucial that we make continual progress toward that goal.
While it might seem like you can’t do much to help, you have more power than you think. Take care of yourself during your pregnancy and ask for help when you need to. Help other mommies-to-be understand the risks and educate others. The more people who help raise awareness, the faster we’ll start to see the maternal mortality rate drop.