The USA Is a Dangerous Place to Be Pregnant

The latest news about pregnancy health in the United States doesn't paint a pretty picture. For the first time, there are more babies in the U.S. dying during pregnancy than as infants -- and there are far more dying during both of those time periods than there should be.


A new report from the CDC has released some staggeringly depressing new statistics about maternal and fetal health in the USA from the past few years, and you might not want to read much farther if you don't want to spoil your day. The rates of pregnancy loss here are already considerably worse than in most other developed countries (USA! USA! USA!), but the numbers are especially bad when it comes to teen mothers, women in several southern states (Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennessee), and women of color. The cross-section with all of these groups is also, of course, that many of these women come from low-income areas and are living in poverty, without access to the kinds of maternal health care that people in other developed countries can, for the most part, expect.

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The report doesn't take into account purposeful attempts to terminate a pregnancy -- only accidental loss was counted toward the statistics. And while there's not much meaningful difference in the numbers between this period and the previous one, the main takeaway there is that we're simply not doing enough to help pregnant women get the health care they need.

These numbers are awful and heartbreaking, but also ... not exactly surprising. Combine some of the world's worst sex education (check out John Oliver's recent episode of Last Week Tonight about this, by the way) with a lack of health care infrastructure -- both of which are problems that only deepen with increases in poverty. "Abstinence-only" sex ed failure plus no OB-GYNs in the tri-county area equals "what did we THINK was going to happen here?"

The researchers who put this study together want to dig more into the causes of these terrible fetal death rates, but I think the indicators of where we need to do some serious work are already there. Kids in the USA deserve better sex education, and pregnant people deserve better and affordable and accessible health care. Otherwise, we can look forward to another report in two years or so showing us just how thoroughly we've continued to let these marginalized populations down.


Image © Daniel Lobo / Flickr

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