Amnesty International has released a shocking and sobering report about maternal mortality in the US. In 1987, there were 6.6 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. Two decades later, that number had risen to 13.3 deaths per 100,000 live births. Part of the increase is due to better reporting, but there are also more women dying from pregnancy complications than there were in the 80s.
One of the issues that Amnesty International addressed was postpartum care. More than half of all pregnancy-related maternal deaths occur in the six weeks following birth, and yet most women aren’t seen for a postpartum checkup until the end of that time period. The midwife we worked with for our son’s birth provided prenatal checkups at her office during the pregnancy, but once our son was born, she came to us for postpartum checkups. We had six postpartum checkups in the first eight weeks following the birth, and for four of those visits, she came to our house. The first postpartum visit was two days after our son was born. We didn’t have to leave the house to take our son for checkups until he was over a month old.
The $3,000 that our midwife charged was quite a bargain, given all the service she provided. If there had been a complication that required surgery or emergency intervention, she would have had to refer us to a hospital, but at least the problem would have stood a better chance of being caught than if I hadn’t had any postpartum care at all for six weeks after our son was born. But in order to get that level of care, we had to pay for it ourselves (most individual health insurance policies in Colorado don’t cover maternity care, and the ones that do offer maternity don’t cover homebirths) and seek out a midwife outside of the traditional American maternity care model.
The Amnesty International report should be an eye-opener for a lot of people. We spend a vast amount of money in this country on maternity care, and yet our results are quite poor compared with other developed countries. Hopefully it won’t take two more decades to get back to the level of maternal death rates that we had in the 80s.