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Negligence in Childbirth Leading Cause of Maternal Death

By: Cohen, Placitella & Roth @ Sep 6, 2017

Most people have heard of the infant mortality rate, the rate of death for infants under one year of age, which is typically used to indicate the quality of healthcare in a country. What few people rarely talk about though is the maternal death rate, which refers to the number of women who die from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. 

Despite the fact that the United States is one of the most advanced countries in the world, the maternal death rate within America is surprisingly high. In fact, the maternal death rate has actually increased in recent years, whereas the rate has decreased in most other developed countries.

Many maternal deaths are preventable,  and but for negligence in gestation or delivery care could be prevented. For mothers, fathers, and concerned loved ones in the United States, consider the following information about maternal death and the roles that physician negligence and medical malpractice play.

Maternal Death Rate in U.S. Unacceptably High

An article published in NPR News, which shared the heartbreaking story of Lauren Bloomstein, a woman who died unexpectedly approximately 20 hours after giving birth to a healthy baby, provides some harrowing statistics about the maternal death rate in the United States. To be sure, the article reports that between 700 and 900 women die every year in the U.S. as a result of causes related to pregnancy or childbirth, and another 65,000 nearly die.

If these numbers aren’t shocking enough, consider the fact that amongst developed countries, the U.S. has one of the worst maternal death rates. Expecting and new mothers in America are more than three times as likely to die from maternal complications than are those living in Canada, and six times as likely to die as are Scandinavian women. In fact, the maternal death rate in the U.S. is higher than it is in Libya, Turkey, and Iran, according to an article published in TIME.

And to make matters worse, the maternal death rate in the United States is actually increasing, despite the fact that in both developed and many underdeveloped countries around the world, the rate is falling.

Who’s At Risk for Maternal Death?

Data shows that some people are more at risk of maternal death than others, but data published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Foundation found that nearly 60 percent of all maternal deaths are preventable. Maternal deaths are higher amongst those who:

  • Are African-American;
  • Live in rural areas; and
  • Are low-income.

Maternal death rates may also be increasing in the U.S., in part, because more women are having babies at an older age (the average age of first-time U.S. moms today is 26.3; just 15 years ago, it was 24.9), with many women not having their first child until 30 and above. Another reason for the uptick may be that many pregnancies are unplanned, which means woman aren’t addressing any lingering health issues before they get pregnant. The obesity rate in America also leads to a number of other complications, like gestational diabetes, which complicates a pregnancy.

Causes of Maternal Death and the Role of Negligence

Again, while risk factors may increase the chances that a woman will die during childbirth or while pregnant, nearly ⅔ of all maternal deaths are preventable. This means that maternal deaths are occurring for reasons that are within physician control – so what’s happening?

First, a look at some of the most common pregnancy and pregnancy-related complications that can kill women:

  • Serious bleeding;
  • Infection;
  • Preeclampsia (dangerously high blood pressure);
  • Problems with cesarean sections.

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that “healthcare solutions to prevent or manage complications are well known.” The WHO continues by explaining that good hygiene practices during surgery/when caring for a woman can prevent infection; that preeclampsia can be prevented and treated by constant monitoring of a pregnant woman’s blood pressure (preeclampsia is what ultimately killed L. Bloomstein); and that the symptoms are recognizable and should be treated immediately. Cesarean sections and induced labor can also be dangerous, and their risks should be carefully considered in advance. Errors during a cesarean section can be fatal for the mom and baby.

When doctors fail to monitor the mother – and only focusing on monitoring the baby – they put the mother’s life at risk. Women like Bloomstein would not die if their conditions were caught earlier on via better monitoring and more accurate testing, and then if those conditions were treated as quickly as possible. In the United States, preeclampsia is responsible for eight percent of maternal deaths; in the UK, the death rate from preeclampsia is one in a million, with only two deaths from the condition reported from 2012 to 2014.

When Negligence Leads to Death

The story of Boomstein, and the many women like her who have died because of complications during childbirth, is tragic. What makes maternal death that much more unacceptable is the fact that most of these deaths would not occur but for nurses’ and physicians’ failures regarding monitoring mothers and acting quickly when problems do occur. This negligence, or the breach of the duty owed to the patient and the medical standard of care, is malpractice. And when it occurs, doctors, nurses, and hospitals need to be held accountable.

Contact Cohen, Placitella & Roth, P.C. Today

At the law offices of Cohen, Placitella & Roth, P.C., we know that nothing can give a family and a newborn child what they deserve when a mother and partner is lost.  If you are the surviving family member of a woman who has died during childbirth or pregnancy, and you  question whether the death could have been prevented but for medical malpractice, please contact our law offices today. We will review your case for free and provide you with legal guidance moving forward.

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