Open Accessibility Menu

Report Says U.S. Now Most Dangerous Place to Give Birth

Jason Reese


  • A USA Today investigation recently found that the U.S. is now the most dangerous place to give birth in the developed world and hospitals are doing little to change that.
  • Germany, France, Japan, Canada and the U.K. saw between 5 and 10 maternal deaths per 100,000 births between 1990 and 2015, the U.S. rate rose sharply to 26.4 deaths during the same period.
  • According to the CDC, at least 700 women die every year from pregnancy or childbirth and 50,000 mothers suffer severe injuries.
  • 60 percent of childbirth related deaths are preventable including those related to uncontrolled bleeding and high blood pressure, and researchers say injuries could be reduced or eliminated with better care provided by health systems, clinicians including nurses and medical support staff.

Report Says U.S. Now Most Dangerous Place to Give Birth

It’s likely you have seen the recent report generated from a USA Today investigation that the U.S. is the most dangerous place in the developed world to give birth. The alarming news came from data evaluated from a study published in the journal The Lancet in 2016 indicating the U.S. maternal death rate rose sharply between 1990 and 2015, when rates in most other developed nations such as Germany, Japan and France, remained flat or dropped. Now that statistics to support the claim show more than 50,000 mothers suffer severe injuries during or after childbirth and about 700 mothers dying, it’s time for hospitals and clinicians to get serious about identifying labor and delivery complications and maternal death risks.

U.S. Hospitals Routinely Skip Essential Safety Practices to Prevent Maternal Death

For the report, USA TODAY collected more than a half-million pages of internal hospital quality data and reviewed mothers who experienced awful deliveries. Dozens of birthing hospitals were also asked if they always follow recommended procedures and track how and why terribly wrong delivery experiences occur. The conclusions were made that safety recommendations are being ignored and failure to protect new mothers is running ramped in health systems and hospitals across the nation.

Two preventable causes of maternal death rate hikes are related to quantifying women’s blood loss or possible postpartum hemorrhage (PPH) or tracking whether moms with dangerously high blood pressure (preeclampsia or gestational hypertension) receive proper medication in time and are treated and screened post-delivery.

Postpartum Hemorrhage: PPH is excessive bleeding (1,000 mL or greater) within the first 24 hours after birth but can occur up to 12 weeks postpartum.

Labor and delivery can create extra risk factors related to PPH and the bleeding usually happens after the placenta is delivered. It is important that when this happens, nurses and staff provide immediate treatment to help stop the bleeding and to prevent another occurrence of blood loss. Early detection and treatment can lead to a full recovery. PPH risks include:

  • Several other conditions that affect the placenta and attribute to PPH include placental abruption, placenta accreta, placenta previa, and a retained placenta.
  • Women who are having a C-section or just receiving general anesthesia can be of greater risk of bleeding.
  • Induction medicines to accelerate labor like Pitocin, or medicines to stop or slow preterm labor called tocolytics, can also contribute to a higher risk of PPH.
  • Women who labor longer than 14 hours or women who give birth rather quickly may have a higher chance of serious hemorrhage.
  • Women may also have tearing if they give birth to a large baby or have a baby born through the birth canal too quickly. Tearing also can happen if the provider performs an episiotomy or uses birthing tools, like forceps or a vacuum, to help move the baby through the birth canal easier. These tears can cause a critical hemorrhage.

Researchers have found that some women carry several risk factors that make them more likely than others to have PPH however, postpartum hemorrhage also occurs in women with no risk factors, so physicians and nursing staff must be prepared to manage this condition at every delivery and postpartum check, follow protocol, and not delay treatment since PPH can be a potentially life-threatening condition.

High Blood Pressure: Preeclampsia or gestational hypertension are types of high blood pressure conditions that only pregnant women can get. Preeclampsia is a condition that can happen after the 20th week of pregnancy or right after pregnancy. Signs of preeclampsia include having protein in the urine, changes in vision and severe headache. A care provider should be checking for these signs and symptoms at each appointment. Gestational hypertension is high blood pressure that starts after 20 weeks of pregnancy and should go away after you give birth. A mother should still be monitored for months after her delivery to identify any rare cases of postpartum preeclampsia.

In Most Cases, Maternal Deaths Could Be Prevented

According to the news investigation, at least half of all maternal deaths could be prevented, and half of the injuries reduced or prevented with better care. And it should remain the responsibility of hospitals and healthcare workers to intervene quickly enough when something goes wrong. While there are hospitals that follow best safety practices, change is happening slowly mostly because regulators and oversight groups that could require hospitals to do more have not.

Most maternal death reporting is done through voluntary submission to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Pregnancy Mortality Surveillance System. Since the voluntary reporting began, the number of pregnancy-related deaths in the United States steadily increased from 7.2 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1987 to a high of 18.0 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2014. Each year, “the government agency requests the 52 reporting areas (50 states, New York City, and Washington DC) to voluntarily send copies of death certificates for all women who died during pregnancy or within 1 year of pregnancy, and copies of the matching birth or fetal death certificates.” Until a more formal and definitive process to track, learn, and create changes in expectations for care, mothers will continue to be lost and injuries to women during and after childbirth will trend on the rise. In the meantime, hospital groups and practitioners need to be held accountable.

We Need You Mom, Let Us Handle Your Medical Malpractice Claim

Our attorneys hold the medical profession in high regard, but when a physician or medical staff does not perform up to professional standards, legal accountability becomes necessary. Too many labor and delivery complications have the chance to be prevented and in return, maternal death risks or life-long injury outcomes could be greatly reduced.

If you have a medical claim caused by a medical provider’s risky choice or other birth complication created by a negligent health system, contact the law firm of Wagner Reese by completing our online form and one of our attorneys will review your information and respond promptly. If you wish to speak with us today, please call (888) 204-8440.

Additional reader resources:


Request Your Free Case Evaluation

Fill out the form below to get started or give us a call at (888) 204-8440 to speak with our legal team directly.

  • Please enter your First Name.
  • Please enter your Last Name.
  • This isn't a valid phone number.
    Please enter your phone number.
    You entered an invalid number.
  • This isn't a valid email address.
    Please enter your email address.
  • Please make a selection.
  • Please enter a message.

Our Locations

  • Indianapolis Office: 201 N. Illinois St.,
    16th Floor - South Tower

    Indianapolis, IN 46204
  • Carmel Office: 11939 N. Meridian St.
    Carmel, IN 46032
  • Evansville Office: 815 John St. Suite 110
    Evansville, IN 47713
  • Fort Wayne Office: 3201 Stellhorn Rd
    Fort Wayne, IN 46815
  • Champaign Office: 701 Devonshire Dr., Suite C17
    Champaign, IL 61820