America: The Only Developed Country Whose Maternal Mortality Rate Is Increasing

American maternal mortality rates rose over a 20-year period at a rate that places the U.S. in the company of war-torn countries like Afghanistan and impoverished nations like Chad and Swaziland, according to a new report.

The findings were recently published in the Lancet by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, a global health research center at the University of Washington. They comprise over 20 years of maternal health data from around the globe. The report shows that there are 18.5 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in the U.S., up from 12.4 deaths per 100,000 births in 1990.

The Huffington Post goes into these numbers at some length: some factors at play may include better reporting in the States, a national population that is generally less healthy, medical advances that allow women with ongoing health conditions to have children, and an increase in C-sections (32% of American babies are delivered by C-section, which is 2–3 times the figure recommended by the World Health Organization). But what would you say if someone asked you what the major differences were between the US and other developed countries? Which would you say first, gun control or this?

“In all the other industrialized democracies — every woman has access to free or low-cost medical treatment,” [author T.R.] Reid said. “As of May 2014, we have about 40 million people without health insurance; half are women.”

“Those women can’t afford the pre-natal care that would keep them and their babies healthy after delivery,” Reid continued. “Thousands of times every month in the U.S.A., women show up at an emergency room nine months pregnant, seven cm. dilated, and they’ve never had a pre-natal visit. Those are the women and babies we lose after childbirth.”

[Huffington Post]