Last week, I wrote about supermodel Christy Turlington's latest documentary project, "No Women No Cry
a documentary that focuses on maternal mortality around the world.
Turlington was driven to create the documentary after seeing how many women around the world do not have access to even the most basic health care during prenatal development. She did take care to mention that even in the U.S., women without health insurance can have as much difficulty accessing care as those in the Third World, but Turlington's documentary primarily focused on maternal mortality in developing nations.
So it's ironic that the big story in the news today is the alarming increase in the maternal mortality rate here at home. Defined as deaths from obstetrical causes within one year of giving birth, the rate rose from 7.6 per 100,000 in 1996 to 13.3 per 100,000 in 2006.
Each day in the U.S., two women die of problems related to pregnancy or childbirth. For each death, experts estimate, there are at least 50 women who experience complications related to pregnancy or childbirth that are life-threatening or cause permanent damage. These types of complications, including kidney failure, respiratory distress syndrome, shock and hemorrhaging rose 25 percent from the late 1990s to 2005. After plunging in the 1900s, maternal mortality rates are on the rise again, and health experts don't know why.
So why is it that even though the U.S. spends more per birth than any other nation, maternal mortality is higher here than in 40 other industrialized countries, including Macedonia, Croatia and Hungary? And why is the maternal mortality rate in the U.S. double that of Canada and much of Western Europe?
No one has the answers to those questions yet. But you can bet that these studies have triggered alarm in medical circles.
Now before you really start to worry, it's important to remember that childbirth-related deaths are still rare in the U.S. The real worry is that health experts believe that at least one-third of these deaths are preventable.