Another Reason To Love California: They Have The Lowest Maternal Mortality Rate In The U.S.

by Seeta Charan

When planning to have a baby, there’s a lot of things to consider – like neighborhoods with good schools and what kind of stroller is best – but you might want to look into the maternal mortality rate of your state. We recently wrote that Texas has the highest maternal mortality rate, and thanks to a recent article from Vox, we’ve learned that California has the lowest maternal mortality rate. California has managed to match the rate of the rest of the developed world, while the United States as a whole is averaging much higher, at about 22 deaths per 100,000 births. The maternal mortality rate has been on the rise in the U.S. for years, while other countries have been decreasing theirs.

The decrease in California’s maternal mortality rate has a lot to do with the work of the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative (CMQCC), which has worked to identify preventable causes of death from complications during or soon after labor. They have found the C-sections can be a risk factor for placenta accreta in later pregnancies. Accreta is a condition where the placenta grows out of control and does not leave the body after birth. The doctor behind CMQCC, David Lagrew, started to point out that the C-sections doctors were performing, some of which were unnecessary, had consequences. Doctors were performing C-sections because patients preferred the,m or to wrap up operations quickly.
Lagrew also noticed that women were dying because doctors didn’t have to materials to help when women hemorrhage in labor. During pregnancy, 10% of a woman’s total blood volume is flowing through her uterus rather than the regular 2%. After birth, the uterus is supposed to contract and stop this blood flow and hemorrhaging can occur if it doesn’t. During childbirth, a woman can bleed to death in five minutes. CMQCC assembled toolkits to give doctors everything they could need in those minutes to stop bleeding because there isn’t time to waste on looking for supplies.

Maternal health expert Eugene Declercq of Boston University said, “The argument we make internationally is that [a high maternal death rate] is often a reflection of how the society views women. In other countries, we worry about the culture — women are not particularly valued, so they don’t set up systems to care for them at all. I think we have a similar problem in the US.” According to Vox, Only 6 percent of block grants for “maternal and child health” under the Title V Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant Program goes to moms. The entire process revolves around the baby, which is why Medicaid only covers complications during and very soon after the birth when, in reality, complications could arise later.

The United States needs to pay attention to what California has shown us: a lower maternal mortality rate in the U.S. is possible, and hopefully, the CMQCC will help to lead the country to better care for mothers.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons/ Klaus Hoffmeier

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