This month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) posted a report that shows the continuing problem with maternal mortality associated with childbirth. The data was compiled after evaluating mothers during the pregnancy, birth, and up to one-year after. The data suggested that disparities exist that make minorities three times more likely to die during this period. Roughly 60% of the maternal deaths related to pregnancy are believed to be preventable.
Recent statistics indicate that more than 50,000 mothers endure complications. Hundreds of these cases lead to death involving childbirth. Hospitals suggest that many pregnant mothers have existing health conditions that are largely contributing to these fatalities. Roughly 30% of these deaths are attributed to either stroke or heart disease. Emergencies during delivery often involve amniotic fluid embolism or excessive hemorrhaging. Cardiomyopathy is the specific heart problem most frequently cited.
Priorities of CDC
Approximately 31% of these deaths occur during pregnancy. The others occur in the weeks or months after the baby is delivered. Infections are also commonly to blame as well as excessive blood loss. Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the CDC, explains that improving the quality of maternal care during and following pregnancy needs to be prioritized. He believes that there is a lack of awareness among the public regarding the dangers that exist.
CDC: Maternal Mortality Review Committees (MMRC)
Those who work in the MMRCs believe that a comprehensive approach is necessary to reverse these trends. These committees also feel that many of these fatalities are preventable. Some of the critical measures necessary for improvement are as follows:
- Patients need increased support from their existing medical providers to better treat chronic conditions.
- Hospital management and system administrators must encourage increased “cross-communication” between medical providers. This process must continue beyond the pregnancy and delivery phases.
- Expecting mothers who have chronic medical conditions need more focused care to better improve outcomes.
- Communities need to better educate the public regarding the complications that may occur during pregnancy
The Problems in Washington D.C.
There appears to be a lack of standardized practices in today's medical environment. This is clearly apparent in Washington D.C., which is now deemed to be the “most dangerous place to give birth in the U.S.” The mortality rate in D.C. is currently double the national average. Recently, the D.C. Council was made aware of this problem. In addition to poor quality care, the region is also suffering from a shortage of available care for expectant mothers.
A recent report from Fox 5 D.C. highlighted the “racial disparity” that exists relating to maternal mortality. Dr. Connie Bohon is working in the District to create an MMRC locally. She explained that it is necessary to closely look at the overall structure that is contributing to this very specific problem. She describes the environment as having a “lack of care in certain parts of the city.” She is working on a program with Charles S. Johnson IV.
Johnson has been a major advocate for the prevention of maternal mortality, particularly in the Los Angeles area. He is active in “community, state and federal” efforts to protect the lives of babies and their mothers. Bohon and Johnson have created a non-profit organization that will help to implement some potential improvements in the availability and the quality of maternal care.