Maternal mortality rates: Where America stands


In the developed world, American women are more at risk for maternal mortality - death during childbirth - than many other countries.

Here's where America stands compared to the rest of the world:

U.S. maternal mortality rates on the rise

Since the turn of the millennium, U.S. maternal mortality rates of have risen significantly. Despite advances in healthcare technology, the U.S. ranks quite low among the world's most developed countries. In fact, The Guardian reported that Texas has the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world.

According to Time Magazine, 24 deaths occur for every 100,000 live births in the U.S. That's up from 19 per 100,000 in 2000, an increase of 27 percent.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention keeps a close eye on maternal death rates. The CDC reported that black women have the highest chance of mortality during childbirth, with 40.4 deaths per 100,000.

The top causes of maternal mortality in the U.S. are cardiac disease, non-cardiac disease, infection and hemorrhage. Time Magazine identified several socio-economic causes for the increase, including higher rates of obesity among American women, racial disparities, healthcare access for impoverished communities and a 53 percent increase in C-section births between 1996 and 2007.

Black women are almost twice as likely to die during childbirth in the U.S.Black women are almost twice as likely to die during childbirth in the U.S.

How the U.S. compares to the rest of the world

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency tracks maternal mortality rates across the globe. According to the CIA, the U.S. ranks 136th in maternal mortality (the lower the ranking, the fewer deaths). This puts America on the same level as countries like Hungary and Iran. In fact, there are 48 countries that rank ahead of the U.S., including Estonia, Greece, Singapore and Belarus.

It's important to note that the U.S. is still a top-performer in preventing death during childbirth. In South Sudan, for instance, the maternal mortality rate is 2,054 in 100,000.

Preventing postpartum hemorrhage

Postpartum hemorrhage - uncontrollable bleeding after childbirth - accounts for 11.4 percent of maternal deaths in the U.S., with rates skyrocketing in economically disadvantaged countries. In rural areas with limited resources, hemorrhages are difficult to treat and often require emergency surgery.

The New York Times reported that tranexamic acid, developed in the 1950's, prevents nearly a third of maternal mortality due to postpartum hemorrhage. Best of all, a single dose of the drug costs about $2 and requires no refrigeration.

It's easy to forget that many Americans still live in areas with poor access to healthcare. Tranexamic acid could lower mortality rates in places like rural Texas where risk of death during childbirth is much higher than the national average.

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