1,000 Women Died in Labor the Day You Gave Birth

baby footVery often we tout how safe birth is, how it is a very natural thing that our bodies can do. And that is true ... mostly. Yet in a country as advanced as America, where we are able to invent computers and have cars that can park themselves, our maternal death rate is 16.7 per 100,000 births. That's more than Poland and Serbia combined. Each day, 1,000 women die in labor worldwide.

This is cause for alarm. Why are so many American women dying in childbirth? Is it the seeming rise in preeclampsia, a potentially deadly pregnancy disease, which I had? Is it the rising c-section rate? Is it negligence?

I cannot help but feel that we in America aren't doing enough to take care of mothers or children. Or are we just not educating ourselves enough in the things that really matter?


This stat, 1,000 maternal deaths per day worldwide, reflects preventable things -- meaning with proper care, many women wouldn't die. In the USA with all our medical breakthroughs, there has actually been a rise in maternal deaths. In 1990, there were 11.5 per 100,000 births; today there are 16.7. America is ranked 39th -- we have a higher rate of moms who die in childbirth than 38 countries! And we call ourselves the most powerful country in the world?!

Our c-section rates are rising higher than what the World Health Organization says is safe -- women haven't lost their ability to birth, have we? I don't think so. Perhaps we have lost faith in our ability. But I'm also not naive to the fact that some women need a c-section in order to save their life and/or the life of their baby or, in my case, my twins. Unnecessary c-sections can increase complications, and can increase maternal mortality. Necessary cesareans can save lives. It's major surgery -- no matter how common this procedures gets, it's still major surgery. And with that come major risks -- pulmonary embolism, infection, hemorrhage -- and it can increase placental complications in future pregnancies. So the risk doesn't end with this pregnancy. Countries that have the highest c-section rates also have high maternal death rates.

This isn't a coincidence.

Worldwide, however, these stats are good because overall fewer women are dying in childbirth today than in the past. But I still cannot get over the fact that in America, our number of deaths are rising. Rising. We can't accept this.

So what are we going to do about it? Do we march on Washington demanding more care and concern for mothers and children? Our maternity leave is a joke in this country, so might as well add this to the list. We need to arm ourselves with education, we need to pay attention to our bodies, we need to take care of ourselves and find great care -- with a midwife, OBGYN, doula. We need a medical breakthrough in preventing and treating preeclampsia. We need to curb the unnecessary c-section rate. We need more of all of it. Because we shouldn't be dying like this. Children shouldn't be left motherless.

What do you think of these stats? Are you shocked at how dismal America's maternal mortality rate is, and how it has risen?


Image via Calmtwood/Flickr

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