The Shocking Truth About Childbirth & Death in the United States
Although I have seen a lot of scary situations as a labor and delivery nurse, I have to admit that for the most part, I consider pregnancy to be a pretty routine part of my life. Especially now that I'm pregnant with my fourth child, my attitude tends to be a little more, “been there, done that, can do again,” instead of the possibility of an emergency scenario for childbirth.
But the shocking truth about childbirth in the United States is that it is still far from routine; even here in the US, women are still dying from pregnancy or childbirth.
It's hard to imagine, in our world of stylish birth plans and choices about pregnancy and birth focused on all-natural vs. epidural, that some women face much graver circumstances when it comes to bringing their babies into the world.
As just one example, according to the Association of Women's Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses, every day, 2-3 women die from complications caused by pregnancy or birth in the United States.
What is perhaps even more surprising about those statistics is the fact that AWHONN states that about half of those deaths are preventable.
There has actually been an increase in maternal injuries and death through the past years, prompting the AWHONN to focus a high-priority iniative on improving the safety of pregnancy and birth for women. Their website states,
“Women are the cornerstone of a healthy and prosperous world—we must act now to eliminate preventable deaths and injuries.”
It's an eye-opening way to think about my health and safety as a pregnant woman, not just for myself, but for the fact that I am literally carrying the future within me. AWHONN is absolutely right.
The focus on improving women's health and safety during pregnancy, delivery, and the postpartum period is on preventing the most common cause of death during childbirth–postpartum hemorrhages. AWHONN estimates that 2.9% of all pregnant women will have complications caused by postpartum hemorrhaging. In fact, “This means about 125,000 women a year are affected. In addition, in the last 10 years, there was a 183% increase in the number of women who had a blood transfusion around the time they gave birth.”
So how can you stay safe?
You can't know for sure prior to delivery whether you'll face the issue of postpartum hemorrhage. The majority of the risks come into play during the third stage of labor and are treated by your doctor with a variety of methods, which may include medications or uterine massage. You can't prevent the possibility, but you can inform yourself of the risks and discuss your thoughts with your doctor.
First of all, know your risks: women who are severely overweight, carrying multiples, have had four or more pregnancies, or have other complications during pregnancy are more at risk. African-American women are also at much greater risk for complications during pregnancy and birth that can lead to death.
But the single most effective form of action you can take to reduce your risk of complications during pregnancy, delivery, and beyond is actually very simple: keep all of your pregnancy appointments with your care provider and keep in close communication with him or her. Openly express your concerns and don't be afraid to ask questions.
How do you stay healthy during your pregnancy?