Maternal mortality is a global crisis, reaching even the United States. A study published last month in the medical journal The Lancet estimated that 293,000 women around the world died of pregnancy or childbirth-related causes in 2013. The study also found that the American maternal mortality rate has gone up in the past decade, placing it with seven other countries showing an increase: Afghanistan, Belize, El Salvador, Guinea-Bissau, Greece, Seychelles and South Sudan.
Almost 800 moms-to-be in the United States perished in 2013 from maternal health problems, or about 18 women for every 100,000 births. That rate is double that of Canada and more than triple that of the U.K. Half of worldwide maternal deaths occurred 24 hours or more after childbirth or during the following year, and the study found that 55 percent of American maternal deaths happened during this delayed postpartum timeframe.
The specific causes of maternal death differ between American women and their counterparts in developing countries. The report found that fatal pregnancy and birth-related complications seen in other parts of the world- obstructed labor, hemorrhage, infection, and abortion-related issues- are becoming less common in the U.S. But more American moms-to-be are experiencing high-risk pregnancies due to preexisting health problems like diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems and obesity or because of increased maternal age. Data also showed that combined maternal deaths from anesthesia complications, embolism and heart failure have increased in the United States.
We can see from these findings that though some factors differ by our geography, women throughout the world are united by this common threat. But together we can be united in finding solutions. Join us in the fight by visiting the Get Involved section of wwhi.org.