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The US Is Most Dangerous Developed Nation to Give Birth: Report

Why Global Citizens Should Care
Health care providers in the US are skipping basic procedures during childbirth that result in life-threatening injuries and the preventable death of women across the country. You can join us by taking action here to support maternal and child health everywhere.

The US is the most dangerous developed nation in which to give birth, an extensive nationwide investigation by USA Today has found.

Citing widespread negligence by doctors, nurses, and hospitals skipping basic, long-recommended safety practices that track the mother’s blood loss and blood pressure during childbirth has resulted in preventable blood clots, untreated infections, strokes, and deaths across the country, according to the report.

Take Action: End Preventable Deaths of over 5 Million Women, Children and Adolescents Every Year

“Our medicine is run by cowboys today, where everyone is riding the range doing whatever they’re wanting to do,” said Dr. Steven Clark, a leading childbirth safety expert and a professor at Baylor College of Medicine, in an interview with USA Today. “It’s a failure at all levels, at national organization levels and at the local hospital leadership levels as well.”

After investigating maternity wards for the last four years, examining the cases of more than 150 women whose “deliveries went terribly wrong,” more than a half-million pages of internal hospital quality records, and conducting interviews at 75 different hospitals across the nation, USA Today uncovered a “stunning lack of attention to safety recommendations and widespread failure to protect new mothers.”

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The investigation sheds insight into sobering figures released in recent years, showing that maternal death in the United States has been steadily rising and that the US now has the highest rate in the developed world, reported CBS News

Between 1990 to 2015, the number of maternal deaths per 100,000 births in most developed nations — such as Germany, France, Japan, England and Canada — fell or plateaued to below 10, reported Newsweek. But in the US the figure jumped to 26.4.

"Experts say that about 50% of the deaths of women from childbirth-related causes could be prevented if they were given better medical care and that's a really surprising thing given that we're one of the wealthiest countries in the world and we spend so much on medical care,” USA Today investigative reporter Alison Young told "CBS This Morning." “We're not just talking about the women who die, we're talking about 50,000 US women who are suffering life-altering harms."

The two leading causes of childbirth-related deaths and injuries are hemorrhage and severe hypertension, according to the report. Both health issues require hospitals pay close attention to a patient's blood pressure and blood loss levels during and after surgery.

Read More: After Nearly Dying as a Newborn, This Advocate Is Working to End Infant and Maternal Mortality

But the investigation found that rather than close monitoring, health professionals are simply eyeballing how much blood women lose.

Lack of training and lack of oversight is legion across the country, the report found, with the exception of California, where the maternal mortality rate has halved thanks to the adoption of safety measures. 

Hospitals are encouraged to follow suit and adopt safety checklists from the Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health Programs.

USA Today's full investigation includes a state-by-state ranking of maternal harms and deaths, as well as a guide on how patients can advocate for themselves during childbirth.