The United States is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. But it’s also one of only eight countries that’s seen the number of women dying in childbirth increasing. It’s the only industrialized country on that list, which includes Afghanistan and South Sudan. A new initiative in Michigan is trying to change that.
Pregnancy and childbirth are safer than they’ve ever been for mothers. A recent report from the World Health Organization found that the number of women dying during childbirth has decreased by over 40 percent in the past 25 years. The bad news? America is bucking that trend.
Despite being one of the wealthiest nations in the world, the U.S. is one of only a few countries that has seen maternal deaths increase since 1990.
A new collaboration between the state, the Michigan Health and Hospital Association, and Wayne State University is trying to change that.
Current State talks with the Chief Medical Executive for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Eden Wells, and Sam Watson, Senior Vice President of Patient Safety and Quality at MHA.
EDITED INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS
What does maternal mortality include?
(Wells) These are women who are dying from a pregnancy related condition. It can be non-pregnancy as well, but we’re really interested in the health of the mom as she’s bringing a child to term. That can include issues such as hemorrhaging or bleeding around the time of pregnancy, high blood pressure, having stress on the heart including (a heart attack), kidney failure, problems with breathing and lungs, and blood clots. So there (are) a number of conditions that can affect mom and many of these are preventable. We’re working with the Michigan Hospital Association to try to decrease these risks.
How does Michigan compare to the rest of the country on maternal morality?
(Wells) It’s….disheartening because even in just the last two years, Michigan had the eighth highest maternal mortality rate in the country. In 2010, we had 86 deaths and again, many of these (were) preventable. I have to say that certain areas of our state, particularly in southeast Michigan, that rate can be as high as close to 59 deaths for every 100,000 births.
Have you had the chance to meet with families who are affected by this tragedy?
(Wells) Our group….does get a chance to meet with families who have been impacted by mothers who have become ill or have actually passed during a pregnancy. That is really what drives us. We have to remember that this isn’t just about numbers and how we rank, but how can we prevent a bad outcome for a mom.