38-year-old YoLanda Mention should be alive today. After giving birth to a baby girl in a South Carolina hospital, she was sent home in March 2015 with dangerously high blood pressure. After returning to the hospital, and sitting in the waiting room for hours with climbing blood pressure and an excruciating headache, she was finally ushered into an exam room, where she suffered a stroke. She died a few days later, leaving her husband to care for their three girls alone.
Mrs. Mention’s life could have been saved with IV medication that costs less than $60 a dose.
Today, the United States is the most dangerous place in the developed world to give birth. Around 700 mothers die each year in childbirth, with an additional 50,000 severely injured each year in childbirth. So far in 2018, there have been 20.7 maternal deaths out of every 100,000 live births.
“About half of these deaths could be prevented, and half the injuries could be reduced or eliminated, through simple changes in care that doctors, hospitals and medical experts have known about for years. Yet too many hospitals and medical workers skip safety practices known to head off disaster,” USA Today.
In 2018 in South Carolina, the numbers are even more astonishing, with 26.5 maternal deaths out of every 100,000 live births to date.
An article in The Post and Courier in August of 2015, claimed that the lives of South Carolina mothers were being taken in childbirth-related issues at the highest rate since the turn of the century, even with the infant mortality rate at the lowest ever.
Experts suspected that these growing mortality numbers were due to several factors:
- Women going through pregnancy and childbirth while suffering from chronical illnesses, like diabetes and hypertension. This could be directly related to the state’s high obesity rate, which affects one out of every three South Carolinians, since obesity can cause diabetes and heart conditions. South Carolina has the 12th highest adult obesity rate in the nation, according to The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America released August 2017.
- Inadequate access to healthcare, especially among the poor rural and urban black population. A recent study shows that black women die in pregnancy-related deaths at more than double the rate of white women.
- Better recording and records collection.
As you can see, the blame was not previously being put on doctors and hospitals, and their care and practices. Quoting USA Today,
Despite repeated failures even at highly rated hospitals, the federal agency and private groups that hold enormous leverage have not used that sway to fix this medical disaster.
Easy steps are available to lessen maternal deaths and injuries:
►Stop blaming the victim. For decades, some hospitals and doctors, looking for excuses, have faulted women being overweight or unhealthy, or blamed poverty or age as leading causes of complications, when one of the real culprits is failing to follow best practices. This won’t change until medical personnel own up to their part of the problem.
►Learn from experts. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the AIM program (Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health) have put out recommendations and “safety bundles” with simple steps and timetables to follow. All hospitals have to do is adopt these recommendations from experts who offer the gold standard of care.
►Go public. Internal data on delivery deaths and injuries, or even answers as to whether a hospital follows best practices, are closely guarded secrets. Half of 75 hospitals in 13 states that USA TODAY contacted repeatedly refused to answer whether they were following the AIM program’s practices for hemorrhage and hypertension. Making this information public would give women a way to choose safer hospitals and provide pressure for improvement.
►Vote for change. Congress, which has largely ignored this deadly problem, should pass a bipartisan measure, introduced in the Senate and House, to help states establish review boards to track and investigate maternal deaths.
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