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Maternal Mortality Prevention Bill Met with Applause from Women's Health Advocates

Wagner Reese

After a mind-blowing USA Today investigation slated the U.S. as the most dangerous place to give birth in the developed world, citing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics that 700 women die every year from pregnancy or childbirth and 50,000 mothers suffer severe injuries, Congress has passed a unanimous bill that authorizes an unprecedented $12 million a year for five years to prevent mothers' deaths during and after childbirth.

The bill passed in December 2018 and has since been widely accepted by women’s health advocates and will hopefully help slash the 60 percent of maternal deaths related to preventable childbirth complications such as uncontrolled bleeding and better monitoring of high blood pressure. Health officials are now hopeful that maternal injuries could be reduced or eliminated with regulations aimed to provide better care by health systems, clinicians including nurses and medical support staff, and a more efficient tracking of maternal death risk factors and occurrences. Currently, maternal death reporting is done through voluntary submission to the CDC’s 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.

Postpartum Hemorrhage and High Blood Pressure Remain Top Maternal Death Concerns

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

  1. 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.
  1. 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.

Researchers have found that some women carry several risk factors that make them more likely than others to have these complications although they can also occur in women with no risk factors. Women of color are at a significantly higher risk than other races to face high maternal mortality rates. Physicians and nursing staff must be prepared to manage these conditions at every delivery and postpartum check, follow protocol, and not delay treatment since both PPH and uncontrolled high blood pressure can be potentially life-threatening conditions.

We are hopeful, with the commitment from Congress and a more formal and definitive process to track, learn, and create changes in expectations for care, maternal death numbers will lessen and injuries to women during and after childbirth will trend on the decline. In the meantime, hospital groups and practitioners need to be held accountable.

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.

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