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U.S. Maternal Deaths Continue to Climb: Is there Any Turning Back?

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Latest Data Shows Troublesome Trend in Maternal Mortality, as U.S. Rates Reach Highest in Nearly 60 Years

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the maternal mortality rate rose 40% higher in 2021 than the previous year. Mining from the National Vital Statistics System data, the CDC reports that 1,205 women died due to maternity-related causes in 2021 compared to 2019 when 754 women died, and 2020 when 861 women died of maternity-related causes. In fact, 2021 marked the highest maternal mortality rate since 1965. To some degree, the pandemic contributed to the increase, but healthcare access and other ongoing problems only worsened during Covid.

Worldwide Rates Fall, U.S. Maternal Mortality Levels Rise

In the last two decades, maternal mortality rates rose even as the rest of the world’s maternal mortality rate lowered. The World Health Organization classifies deaths of pregnant women up to 42 days before or after a pregnancy ends, from pregnancy-related causes, as maternal deaths. The report calculates maternal death numbers out of 100,000 live births grouped by age, race, and ethnic origin. On average, the United States fared worse than most other wealthy countries. States like Arkansas, Alabama, and Kentucky had the highest maternal mortality rates, while California, Colorado, Illinois, and Massachusetts had the lowest, according to Kaiser Family Foundation.

Unlikely Risk Factors for Maternal Deaths

According to the CDC report, significant risk factors for increased mortality rates include age and race. Black non-Hispanic women died more frequently than White non-Hispanic women, and those over 40 died 6.8 times more often than those under 25. However, reporting methods may not be complete or error-free and do not include all racial and ethnic categories. Nevertheless, the data suggest that United States pregnant women die preventable deaths more often than in comparably wealthy nations, with a mortality rate of 32.9 deaths per 100,000 live births. Only India, Brazil, and China had higher maternal mortality rates.

Causes likely attributable to those numbers include high c-section rates, obesity, insufficient prenatal care, heart disease, mental health issues, and inaccessible healthcare. According to a Commonwealth Fund study, U.S. women do not seek medical attention due to cost and medical billing troubles. Data shows that three-quarters of United States women under 50 rate the health care system as subpar compared to other countries included in the study, most of whom rated their health care system positively.

Dangers of Birth-Related Death for Uninsured Mothers

Researchers attribute the lack of universal health care in the United States compared to other nations with universal access as an essential consideration in the U.S. maternal mortality rate standing. Kaiser Foundation reports that in 2021, 11% of women had no health insurance, which means doctors never saw them for preventative care. As such, uninsured women do not know they have high blood pressure or breast cancer until they are in the hospital for emergency treatment.

The uninsured have higher rates of severe illness and death. The lack of health care may also explain why three times more Black and Native Americans and Native Alaskans die than White women, according to the CDC report. However, bias may also explain why these groups of women have higher mortality rates. Public researchers note that physicians ignore minority women’s reports of symptoms. Insufficient food supply, education, and safety also affect minority group members’ health.

Leading Risk Factors Associated with Maternal Mortality

Still, physicians attribute cardiovascular problems and obesity as the main contributors to the peak numbers. The CDC reports that heart disease causes the most pregnancy-related fatalities, seconded only by maternal infection. However, obesity causes heart problems and a higher likelihood of pregnancy complications, including gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and eclampsia. And during the pandemic, pregnant women did not readily access prenatal care as exposure to Covid-19 presented a higher risk for complications and death.

With nearly half of the adults in the nation presenting with obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and pre-diabetes, the overall health of the United States population contributes to rising mortality rates. Coupled with the trend of women over 40 entering motherhood, the perfect storm of risk factors may explain the rise in maternal deaths.

Is the Rising U.S. Maternal Death Rate Going to Slow Down?

According to some experts, the staffing shortages and hospital closures in rural areas post-Covid may further increase the rising maternal rate. Also of concern are the increasing complications from restricted abortion access in many states nationwide that may continue the upward fatality trend. Experts agree that reducing maternal mortality is tied to insurance coverage access, prenatal heart disease, obesity, hypertension prevention and treatment, and postpartum care. In addition, physicians need training on their biases in treating minority women’s complaints. In other words, better medical care and management are significant factors in improving the mortality rate for pregnant women.

What are my Rights if Someone I Love Dies in Childbirth in New Jersey?

If a pregnant woman dies after birthing a child because her physician did not take her health complaints seriously or her physician fails to follow up with her postpartum, her loved ones may pursue a claim against the physician for negligent care and treatment. Negligence is the core component of a medical malpractice or maternal death action. To prove medical malpractice, a claimant must prove a medical professional failed to practice medicine competently, as measured against a standard of care of comparable medical professionals with the same experience, education, and circumstances.

To know if your loved one died because of medical malpractice and if a maternal wrongful death claim is viable, you should seek the advice of an experienced medical malpractice and wrongful death attorney. Our seasoned lawyers focus solely on these claims in New Jersey and across the United States, handling lawsuits for mothers and their grieving loved ones when a mom dies before, during, or after childbirth due to negligent medical care. Our highly learned legal counsel includes an evaluation of your claim based on your relating the facts of what happened and our independent investigation of the claim. Since we are practicing in this field on a daily basis, we have connections and access to medical experts and use our comprehensive investigative techniques to acquire the information necessary to evaluate your claim and determine if you are eligible to file a lawsuit.

Since New Jersey medical malpractice laws and procedural rules include a statute of limitations or deadline for filing a lawsuit, and a medical expert affidavit to verify the veracity of your medical malpractice lawsuit, it is imperative to ensure that you do not jeopardize your claim with lack of knowledge about the process. Failing to file a timely lawsuit could result in the loss of damages that you may be entitled to seek for economic and mental losses due to your loved one’s death. Seek the assistance of our exceptionally qualified maternal death attorneys to discuss your right to pursue a claim and how we can assist you with securing the full compensation for your family. Contact us for a free case review by calling 866-708-8617 0r filling out a get in touch request below.

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