Monday, February 8, 2010

Going Backward

I was actually relieved to hear about this article from my mother who read it in her local newspaper. Finally, this is getting some coverage.

In midwife circles, the poor medical care for birthing women in our country is well-known, but among the general public it's still assumed that the US has the best results possible. It's time we wake each other up and talk about what's being done to mothers in the delivery & operating rooms, and what effects this has on women's health for the rest of their lives.

Aside from underreporting maternal deaths, or attributing them to a different cause (like saying a woman who had a cesarean died from an infection, when the major infection wouldn't have happened without the cesarean) there have been problems in the past with state death certificates lacking a field to record whether a woman was pregnant within 6 months prior to her death. This means we have no idea what the U.S.'s actual maternal mortality rate is.

This is from the above article:

“For every maternal death, there are 10 near misses; for every near miss, there are 10 severe morbidity cases (such as hysterectomy, hemorrhage, or infection), and for every severe morbidity case, there are another 10 morbidity cases related to childbirth.”

When they say 'infection', they're not talking about a yeast infection here, it means a systemic on-your-death-bed infection, an infection from your bowel getting nicked during surgery, or an infection from a catheter left in for hours and hours that progressed all the way to your kidneys.

Now I know that pregnancy, birth, and postpartum is not always smooth sailing, but seriously, that's a LOT of injured women.

The most revealing part of the article was this quote from Dr. King who leads a special inquiry into maternal mortality for ACOG - he still thinks we're just getting better at counting.

“ 'I would be surprised if there was a significant increase of maternal deaths,' said King, who has not seen the California report."

Without even seeing the report! I'm not sure how the leader of a special team designed to see these reports could have an opinion without doing his job. Keep in mind, he's working for the foremost organization in America involved in maternity care. We're in good hands (heavy sarcasm).

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