The U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate of any developed country in the world (1). There are myriad reasons for this devastating fact, one of which is that hospitals across the country can be terribly unprepared for maternal emergencies.
In a recent USA Today story, journalists examined billing records from seven million births in 13 states (2). These computerized billing records hold the recorded details about patient’s treatments during their hospital stays. The federal government permits hospitals to keep their childbirth complication rates private, so this groundbreaking story is the first analysis of such numbers that has been made public.
The journalists found that, in these 13 states alone, there were 120 hospitals where severe maternal complications occur at staggering rates (at least double that of the standard for most hospitals) (2). They called these hospitals “outlier hospitals,” because women were more than twice as likely to experience travesties there. Such devastating maternal complications included hysterectomies, hemorrhages, infections, strokes, and death.
One particular hospital that was noted in the story, Touro Hospital in New Orleans, refused questions, noting its area’s issues with “poor health,” “high rates of poverty,” and “high cost of healthcare” (2). This response was upsetting to many childbirth safety advocates because it blamed demographics for childbirth complications, rather than focusing on the responsibility of the hospital to ensure safe care for all patients. To make such claims doesn’t call to question any of the medical center’s practices or process, and thus fails to encourage improvement.
The stories of Tuoro patients who experienced complications or died during their childbirth tell of delayed treatments that caused stroke, botched c-sections that caused hemorrhages, and invasive testing that caused infections. To respond to these complications by only noting the area’s demographics does not address the need for huge improvements in medical care, a problem that is nationwide.
Anyone can search the USA Today database to learn about the childbirth complications at many hospitals across America. The database employs a rate created by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention called “severe maternal morbidity rate” to refer to unexpected outcomes of labor and delivery that bring about short- or long-term consequences to the woman’s health (3). The CDC found that more than 50,000 women in the U.S. were affected by “severe maternal morbidity” in 2014, the last year these types of records were available.
Maternal morbidity, maternal mortality, and birth injury
Childbirth complications affect both mother and child. If a mother or a child is hurt as a result of misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, failure to obtain informed consent, medication mistakes, failure to follow up with a patient after treatment, errors in execution of treatment, or inappropriate choice of treatment, this constitutes medical malpractice. Birth injuries are complications to the baby that occur during or near the time of childbirth and are related to medical malpractice. Physicians can prevent birth injuries by following standards of care, monitoring the mother and the baby, and promptly addressing any issues that arise during pregnancy, labor, and delivery. For more information on birth injuries and medical malpractice, contact us 24/7 via email, phone, or our contact portal.
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- Nina Martin, P., & Montagne, R. (2017, May 12). U.S. Has The Worst Rate Of Maternal Deaths In The Developed World. Retrieved March 11, 2019, from https://www.npr.org/2017/05/12/528098789/u-s-has-the-worst-rate-of-maternal-deaths-in-the-developed-world
- Young, A., Kelly, J., & Schnaars, C. (2019, March 09). Hospitals blame moms when childbirth goes wrong. Secret data suggest it’s not that simple. Retrieved March 11, 2019, from https://www.usatoday.com/in-depth/news/investigations/deadly-deliveries/2019/03/07/maternal-death-rates-secret-hospital-safety-records-childbirth-deaths/2953224002/
- Severe Maternal Morbidity in the United States | Pregnancy | Reproductive Health |CDC. (n.d.). Retrieved March 11, 2019, from https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/maternalinfanthealth/severematernalmorbidity.html