24h-payday

Archive

Posts Tagged ‘maternity care’

Finding Common Ground: The Home Birth Consensus Summit

April 15th, 2014 by avatar
© HBCS

© HBCS

While home birth has a proven safety record in countries outside the U.S., some attribute that to the fact that, in other countries, home birth takes place in the context of an integrated health care system. It is critical that all of the stakeholders in the maternal health care system are working together to ensure safe birth options in the U.S. as well.

The Home Birth Consensus Summit (HBCS) is a unique collaboration of all of the stakeholders currently involved in home birth in the United States. First held in 2011, the Home Birth Consensus Summit offers physicians, midwives, consumers, administrators and policy makers; (a varied group of representatives who do not often share common ground,) a chance to take a 360 degree look at the current maternal health care system and tease out the areas of conflict and common ground in order to increase safety in all birth settings.

Today on Science & Sensibility, our readers learn about the Home Birth Consensus Summit; its participants, purpose and process. Thursday, we will have the opportunity to review one of the groundbreaking products from the past two summits, when the HBCS releases the “Best Practice Guidelines: Transfer from Home Birth to Hospital” for consideration and adoption by maternal health organizations. Learn more about the HBCS from Summit Delegate Jeanette McCulloch as she interviews Saraswathi Vedam, RM FACNM MSN Sci D(hc), Home Birth Consensus Summit convener and chair. – Sharon Muza, Community Manager, Science & Sensibility

Jeanette McCulloch: What was the motivation behind launching the Home Birth Consensus Summit?

Saraswathi Vedam: Women want – and deserve – respectful, high quality maternity care regardless of their planned place of birth. Women and their families are not served by the interprofessional conflict and confusion that occurs in many regions in the US around place of birth.

While there may be points of disagreement, I know from numerous conversations with consumers, midwives, physicians, administrators, and policy makers that there are many more areas in maternity care where we all share a common set of principles and goals. Everyone is committed to working towards improved quality and safety for women and infants.

In 2011, a very intentionally selected group of stakeholders came together for the first Summit at the Airlie Center, in Warrenton, VA. These individuals represented all key leaders of the maternity care team, researchers, policy makers, payors, consumers, and consumer advocates. They came to the Summit with a wide variety of perspectives – including those for and against planned home birth. At the Summit, these delegates engaged in a unique process designed to help those with opposing viewpoints untangle complex issues. This process, called Future Search, guided the group through a complete exploration of every aspect of the maternal health care system. There were frank, challenging, and productive conversations, often among stakeholders who rarely, if ever, had been at the same table before. Once we were able to discover common ground, we were able to create a realistic and achievable strategic action plan together.

JM: Tell us about what common ground the Home Birth Consensus Summit has found so far.

SV:  As the delegates discussed their shared responsibilities and vision for providing the best possible care, we realized that the vision applied to all birth settings. The nine common ground statements describe a maternity care environment that respects the woman’s autonomy, ensuring she has safe access to qualified providers in all settings, and that the whole team that may care for her are well prepared with the clinical skills and knowledge that best applies to her specific situation. This will require attention to equity, cross-professional education, and research that includes the woman in defining the elements of “safety” and accurately describes the effects of birth place, or different models of care, on outcomes. The delegates shared a goal of increasing knowledge and access to physiologic birth, access to professional education and systems for quality monitoring for all types of midwives, from all communities; and reduction in barriers like cost and liability. Coming to this place of understanding and agreement, though, was only the beginning. Each of those action statements had to be turned into a concrete action plan that all of the stakeholders collaborated on developing.

© HBCS

© HBCS

JM: What is happening with the common ground statements now?

SV: Multi-disciplinary work groups have formed around each common ground statement. In 2013, the work groups came together for the second summit, again at the Airlie Center, to discuss progress made so far and tackle challenges.

Coming to this place of understanding and agreement, though, was only the beginning. The common ground statements are also encouraging a dialogue outside of our action groups that we could have never predicted. For example, the statements were read into the congressional record by Congresswoman Roybal-Allard, who said that the publication of the Home Birth Consensus document was “of critical importance to all current and future childbearing families in this country.” In the following year, several of the Summit delegates were invited panelists and presenters at an Institute of Medicine Workshop on Research Issues in the Assessment of Birth Settings.

JM: What are some of the top outcomes of the work groups?

SV: One exciting outcome – a set of Best Practice Guidelines to provide optimal care for mothers and families transferring from home to hospital – will be released by the Home Birth Consensus Summit later this week. This project represents what the Summits are all about: bringing together stakeholders to look at every facet of an issue, and work together on concrete initiatives to improve outcomes. These guidelines are based on the best available research on effective interprofessional collaboration. Delegates who are leading midwives, physicians, nurses, policy makers and consumers from across the U.S. formed the Collaboration Task Force. They met regularly over eight months on weekends and after hours to research and carefully design a concrete evidence-based tool to improve quality and safety for women and increase respectful communication among providers. Easing the friction that can sometimes occur when families arrive at the hospital can not only increase safety for families, but also build trust and collaboration between providers.

© HBCS

© HBCS

Another group is collaborating to develop a Best Practice Regulation and Licensure Toolkit – a resource for state policy makers that will provide a best practice model of midwifery regulation to be used as a template to enact or improve licensure in a particular state.

Another important outcome is a study of midwives and mothers of color to better understand social and health care inequities that lead to higher incidence of prematurity and low birth weight.

JM: What comes next for the Summit?

SV: The action groups are continuing their work on initiatives in each of the common ground areas. At Summit III, scheduled for Fall 2014 in Seattle, WA, each action work group will share the products of their collaborations, and address some remaining priorities. These include research and data collection, ethics, and access to equitable care during pregnancy. We plan to expand the participants to include more leaders from policy and practice to disseminate the documents and engage more in this exciting work.

I have been working towards ensuring equitable birth options for women and their families for nearly 30 years. My goal for the Summits is to increase the probability that my four daughters – and everyone’s daughters, wives, and sisters – will experience high quality, respectful maternity care.

What are your thoughts on the Home Birth Consensus Summits and this collaborative model?  How do you see this further maternal infant health and safety.  What would you like to see discussed by the stakeholders at Summit III in Seattle this fall?  Let us know in the comments and join us on Thursday to learn more about the details of the soon to be released “Best Practice Guidelines: Transfer from Home Birth to Hospital.”

Bios:

© Saraswathi Vedam

© Saraswathi Vedam

Saraswathi Vedam, RM FACNM MSN Sci D(hc), is the convener and chair of the Home Birth Consensus Summit. She has been active in setting national and international policy on home birth and midwifery education and regulation, providing expert consultations in Mexico, Hungary, Chile, China, Canada, and the United States. She serves as Senior Advisor to the MANA Division of Research, Chair of the ACNM Transfer Task Force, and Executive Board Member, Canadian Association of Midwifery Educators. Over the past 28 years she has cared for families in all birth settings. Professor Vedam’s scholarly work includes critical appraisal of the literature on planned home birth, and development of the first US registry of home birth perinatal data. Contact Saraswathi Vedam.

© Jeanette McCulloch

© Jeanette McCulloch

Jeanette McCulloch, IBCLC, is the co-founder of BirthSwell an organization improving infant and maternal health by changing the way we talk about birth and breastfeeding. She has been using strategic communications and messaging to change policy, spread new ideas, and build thriving businesses for more than 20 years. Jeanette is honored to be working with local, national, and international birth and breastfeeding organizations (including the Home Birth Consensus Summit) and advocates ensuring that women have access to high-quality care and information.

Babies, Healthcare Reform, Home Birth, Legal Issues, Maternal Quality Improvement, Maternity Care, Newborns, Practice Guidelines, Uncategorized , , , , ,

Home Birth In a Risk Society: A Commentary by Sociologist Barbara Katz Rothman

February 4th, 2014 by avatar

By Barbara Katz Rothman, PhD

Today, I am delighted to share with you an essay on risk written by sociologist and author Barbara Katz Rothman, PhD.  There has been much discussion and debate on two papers just published in the Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health, using the MANA Stats V2.0 data from the Midwives Alliance of North American. You can find these two papers and a research review by Judith Lothian published on January 30th on Science & Sensibility. – Sharon Muza, Community Manager, Science & Sensibility.

We live in what Social Scientists called a ‘Risk Society.”[i] If you simply google “risk and birth,” you get over 402 million ‘hits.’  So no question, birth is understood as  having risks, creating risks, being risky business indeed.  But not the riskiest of businesses – Google “risk and food,” and you get almost twice as many hits – over 746 million. That doesn’t feel right somehow – pregnancy and birth are always and everywhere in our world understood as risky; food not so much.  I nibble some snacks as I write, sip some tea – are you worrying for me? Wishing me luck with that?  Thinking about the odds of food poisoning? Insecticide exposure?  the long term risks of diabetes, joint pain, heart troubles, cancers that might be flowing forth from the snack choices I am making?

image: www.thinknpc.org

image: www.thinknpc.org

 

And what about those snack choices?  Do they not carry much of the same moral weight that pregnancy choices make — if I tell you it’s green tea and carrots, or if I tell you it’s a honey chai latte and multigrain crackers with organic almond butter, or if I tell you it’s a Nestle Iced Tea and Oreo cookies – do I not create different images of myself as a risk-taking or risk-sparing person, even as a more or less ‘good’ and responsible person?  These are of course the arguments that Risk-society thinkers have been addressing: the risks we perceive and the risks we take are judged, by ourselves and by others.

In birth, few choices have been as freighted with the language of risk and responsibility as that of home birth.

The irony here is that birth moved into the hospital with all of the data showing us that move increased risk; and all of the research we have now still shows us that hospitals present unique and particular risks for birth. Birth moved into the hospital long before the era of Risk – that move was done in the era of Science.  The same science that covered our kitchens in white laboratory-style paint and tiles, that replaced local baking with packaged white bread made out of mass-milled white flour, that created industrialized systems to raise cheap meat at whatever costs to health of humans or animals, that moved fruits and vegetables from fresh to canned – that same science that created the industrial diet of the turn of the century, created the industrial birth.

image: sharon muza

image: sharon muza

When I wanted a home birth almost forty years ago, I knew nothing of midwifery. I just assumed that obstetricians had the necessary knowledge and skills to deliver babies (and yes, I called it ‘deliver’) and that those skills could be used in my bedroom as well as in a ‘delivery room.’  Over the course of my scholarly work in the years following, I learned how wrong that was.  Home birth involves a set of skills, practices and competencies that people trained in hospital birth most often never have learned.  Thus the MANA data is not merely a comparison of place: What we are seeing in this data set is a study of midwifery-led care, or as Ronnie Lichtman has called it[ii], midwifery-guided birth, birth in settings where midwives and the women they are guiding have control over practice.

MANA’s data and these articles are showing us that the United States, for all of its problems, is not exceptional:  Fully autonomous, informed midwifery care provides better birth outcomes than does care under Obstetrical management.  Obstetrics and Gynecology is a surgical specialty, magnificently equipped to manage particular illnesses and crises, but neither the discipline nor the hospital settings it has developed for its practice are appropriate for normal, physiologic birth.

Research on women who choose home birth, as well as midwives who provide it, show that their concerns go beyond the risks of what is often called the ‘cascade of interventions’ that follows medical management, leading as it so often does to cesarean section.  In addition to the well-documented iatrogenic risks, they address risks of the hospital itself, what are called when looking at infections, ‘nosocomial’ risks. They were concerned with errors that are made when people are managed in what is essentially a factory-like setting: risks of overcrowding; risks of exposure to others and exposure of self.[iii]

Hospital-industrialized births demand standardized care. Consider something as mundane and yet intrusive as the vaginal exam.  Medical guidelines, the medical story, is that such exams are necessary to determine labor and its stages.  That of course is absurd.  Do you really think that an experienced midwife, someone who has attended hundreds or thousands of births cannot tell if a labor is established without a vaginal exam? What a midwife needs that exam for is to document, not to establish the labor.  Those exams are not only intimate and intrusive, but for women with histories of sexual abuse especially, can be experienced as traumatic.[iv] For all women, raised with ideas of bodily privacy, integrity and what used to be called ‘modesty,’ such exams at a moment of vulnerable transition are problematic. Done for reasons of institutional management and control, they are one more interruption and create risks of their own. Particularly in hospital settings, vaginal exams are one more occasion for the introduction of nosocomial infection.

Managing the management thus becomes necessary in hospital settings: – midwives use the vaginal exam to create the story that will be most in the woman’s best interests, and occasionally in the midwives’ own best interest.  Midwives are thoughtful about when they measure because, for example, they are hesitant to start the clock too early.  In such care, what midwives are trying to minimize is not the risks of a prolonged labor, but the risks of intervening in a labor medically defined as prolonged.

It is reasonable to talk about how recent this language of ‘risk’ is in pregnancy and in birth – but the language of danger, that which we are in risk of, has long been an accepted part of birth.  Calling it “Risk” is adding the numbers – sure there are dangers, but precisely what are the odds? That there are dangers in pregnancy and in birth, and that they can be avoided or overcome, this is not news.  Dangers, disasters even, could happen in the best and healthiest of pregnancies and births.  The difference perhaps is that now there is no such thing as a healthy pregnancy and birth.  There still is an understanding of such a thing as a ‘healthy meal” and even a “healthy diet,’ but no longer, it seems to me, a healthy pregnancy – the best you can hope for is a low risk pregnancy.

It is not that midwives do not have understandings of danger and knowledge about ways to avoid danger, including the dangers of prolonged labors.  That is precisely what midwifery has been throughout time and across place: the development of a body of knowledge and skilled craftsmanship to navigate the dangers of childbirth.  All of that knowledge was discounted with medicalization.

Scientific or ‘Medical’ knowledge is accepted as real and authoritative; other knowledge is reduced to ‘intuition’ or ‘spiritual knowing,’ made all but laughable.   But when a baker adds a bit more flour because the dough is sticky, is that ‘intuition’?  Or is that knowledge based on craft, skill, deep knowledge of the hands?  When a violin-maker rejects a piece of wood in favor of one lying next to it that looks just the same to me or to you, is that ‘intuition’?  Or experience, skill and craft?  And when a leading neurosurgeon examines a dozen stroke patients who all present pretty much the same way on all of their tests and feels hopeful about some and concerned for others, is that ‘intuition’?  Or knowledge based on experience, using a range of senses and information that may not be captured in the tests?

In hospital settings, midwives do not have the authority to use their knowledge fully in the woman’s best interests.  And therein lie the risks.

And finally, it would be helpful to put these risks in contextIf safety were our real concern, if saving the lives of babies and of mothers were the driving force, then there are a number of changes we would make immediately.  We would require helmets for people in cars, something we know would save lives each week.  We would lower the speed limit in urban areas, and end driveway parking in suburbs. To suggest such things makes one look crazy – crazier than suggesting home birth.  But it most assuredly would protect children. If saving babies were our concern, we would invest in public housing, and in the food system.  These are large scale changes that would save far more people than anything that happens in those few hours of late labor to early neonatal period, the 24 or so hours of hospitalization that is now being debated.

Clearly something more or other than saving babies is at stake.

References

[i] Beck, U. (1992). Risk society: Towards a new modernity (Vol. 17). Sage.

[ii] Lichtman, R. (2013). Midwives Don’t Deliver or Catch: A Humble Vocabulary Suggestion. Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health.

[iii] Katz Rothman, B., (2014) Risk, Pregnancy and Childbirth, Risk, Health and Society, edited by Alaszewski, Intro by Barbara Katz Rothman. Volume 16.1, forthcoming.

[iv]  Adult manifestations of childhood sexual abuse. Committee Opinion No. 498, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Obstet Gynecol 2011: 118:392-5.

About Barbara Katz Rothman

image: Barbara Katz Rothman

image: Barbara Katz Rothman

Barbara Katz Rothman, PhD, is Professor of Sociology, Public Health, Disability Studies and Women’s Studies at the City University of New York, and on the faculty of the Masters in Health and Society at the Charite in Berlin, the University of Plymouth in the UK, and the International Midwifery Preparation Program at Ryerson University in Toronto Canada. Her books include In Labor: Women and Power in the Birthplace, The Tentative Pregnancy: How Amniocentesis Changes the Experience of Motherhood, Recreating Motherhood, The Book of Life: A Personal and Ethical Guide to Race, Normality and the Human Gene Study,  Weaving A Family: Untangling Race and Adoption and Laboring On: Birth in Transition in the United States.  Dr. Katz Rothman is the proud recipient of an award for “Midwifing the Movement” from the Midwives Alliance of North America.

Cesarean Birth, Childbirth Education, Do No Harm, Evidence Based Medicine, Guest Posts, Home Birth, informed Consent, Maternal Quality Improvement, Maternity Care, Midwifery, New Research , , , , , , , , , ,

Lamaze International Releases Valuable Cesarean Infographic For You To Share!

October 10th, 2013 by avatar

Lamaze International has long been a leader in providing resources for both parents and birth professionals that promote safe and healthy birth for women and babies.  Evidence based information, appealing handouts, useful webinars for both parents and professionals, continuing education opportunities and more can all be found within the Lamaze International structure.  In May, 2012, Lamaze International released  (and later went on to be a co-winner for the 2013 Nonprofit PR Award for Digital PR and Marketing) the Push For Your Baby campaign, which encouraged families to “push for better” and “spot the best care,” providing resources to help parents wade through the overabundance of often inaccurate information swimming past them, and make choices that support a healthy pregnancy, a healthy birth and a healthy mother and baby.

Today, as I make my way to New Orleans, to join other professionals at the 2013 Annual Lamaze International Conference, “Let the Good Times Roll for Safe and Healthy Birth,” Lamaze International is pleased to announce the release of a useful and appealing infographic titled “What’s the Deal with Cesareans?” In the USA today, 1 in 3 mothers will give birth by cesarean section.  While, many cesareans are necessary, others are often a result of interventions performed at the end of pregnancy or during labor for no medical reason.  For many families, easy to understand, accurate information is hard to find and they feel pressure to follow their health care provider’s suggestions, even if it is not evidence based or following best practice guidelines.

Families taking Lamaze classes are learning about the Six Healthy Birth Practices, which can help them to avoid unnecessary interventions. Now, Lamaze childbirth educators and others can share (and post in their classrooms) this attractive infographic that highlights the situation of too many unneeded cesareans in our country.  Parents and educators alike can easily see what the risks of cesarean surgery to mother and baby are, and learn how to reduce the likelihood of having a cesarean in the absence of medical need.

In this infographic, women are encouraged to take Lamaze childbirth classes, work with a doula, select a provider with a low rate of cesarean births, advocate for vaginal birth after cesarean and follow the Six Healthy Care Practices, to set themselves up for the best birth possible.  This infographic clearly states the problem of unneeded cesareans, the risks to mother and baby, and provides do-able actions steps.

It is time for women to become the best advocate possible for their birth and their baby.  With this appealing, useful and informative infographic poster, families can and will make better choices and know to seek out additional information and resources.

Educators and other birth professionals, you can find a high resolution infographic to download and print here.

Send your families to the Lamaze International site for parents, to find the infographic and other useful information on cesarean surgery.

For Lamaze members, log in to our professional site to access this infographic and a whole slew of other useful classroom activities, handouts and information sheets.

I am proud to say that I am a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, and that my organization, Lamaze International, is leading the way in advocating for healthier births for mothers and babies through sources such as the “What’s the Deal with Cesareans?” infographic and other evidence based information and resources.  Thank you Lamaze!

What do you think of this infographic?  How are you going to use it with the families you work with?  Can you think of how you might incorporate this into your childbirth classes or discuss with clients and patients?  Let us know in the comments section, we would love your feedback!  And, see you at the conference!

 

 

Babies, Cesarean Birth, Evidence Based Medicine, Healthy Birth Practices, Healthy Care Practices, informed Consent, Lamaze International, Lamaze International 2013 Annual Conference, Maternal Quality Improvement, Maternity Care, Medical Interventions, Newborns, Patient Advocacy, Push for Your Baby , , , , , , , , ,

Maternity Support Survey – Critical Research on Under-Studied Maternity Roles

January 22nd, 2013 by avatar

 

photo:Dawn Thompson, improvingbirth.org

I’d like to draw your attention to a very important study that is currently looking for participants – The Maternity Support Survey. This comprehensive study is the first to compare doulas, childbirth educators, and labor and delivery nurses, working in the United States and Canada, in terms of their approach to maternal support and care. The survey explores these individuals’ knowledge and attitudes toward current childbirth practices, technologies and support.  Now is your opportunity to share how you view your responsibilities.  This research team wants to hear from you!

The team behind the research has been working for over two years via conference calls to develop the survey and methodology.   The research team consists of Louise M. Roth, PhD, (Principal Investigator), Christine Morton, PhD (Co-PI and regular contributor to this blog), Marla Marek, RNC, BSN, MSN, PhD(c), Megan Henley, Nicole Heidbreder BSN, MA, Miriam Sessions, Jennifer Torres, and Katie Pine, PhD.  They are sociologists and nurses, working in California, Arizona, Washington DC, Michigan, and Wyoming.  To raise funds for the project, they launched an Indiegogo campaign and have been featured on the Every Mother Counts blog.  The Maternity Support Survey has been approved by the Institutional Review Board of the University of Arizona, and Louise M. Roth, PhD, is the Principal Investigator of the study.

I’m sure the readers of this blog are aware that research has shown that support during labor and delivery has a significant impact on method of delivery, maternal and neonatal morbidity, and rates of postpartum depression. Yet existing research in maternity care has largely focused on how mothers and families view their care or on the perspectives of midwives and obstetricians, with less attention to the views of individuals who provide support to women during pregnancy and birth. The Maternity Support Survey is addressing this need.

Topics that the survey investigates include: whether doulas and childbirth educators view their maternity support work as a career, how doulas and childbirth educators establish their expertise, how technology affects workload among labor and delivery nurses, how maternity support workers are affected by managed care and litigation concerns, and emotional burnout among maternity support workers.

The Maternity Support Survey has partnered with Lamaze International and the following organizations in the recruitment of participants: Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN); Birthing from Within; International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA); BirthWorks; DONA International; toLABOR (formerly ALACE); and CAPPACanada.  These organizations felt that this research was important enough to reach out to their collective members with a request for participation.

The survey launched in November 2012 – the organizations above sent emails to their members, along with monthly reminders.  By early mid January 2013, the survey had logged 1500 responses, with relatively equal numbers of each group responding.  Then, the research team decided to extend the reach of the survey to those doulas, CBEs and L&D nurses BEYOND the membership organizations.  A viral social media blitz ensued, with positive results.  Within a week, the survey logged an additional 600 responses.  As of January 21, 2013, the survey has been completed by just over 2100 respondents.  Doulas now comprise about 44%, with L&D nurses at 35% and CBEs at 33% of the total respondents.  The survey will be open through mid-March, so there is still time to share widely among your networks.  Data cleaning will happen in April, and analysis will begin in May 2013.  The researchers plan to disseminate their findings at conferences and publish in journals of interest to these occupational groups as well as in sociology and other fields.

Those of you who are members of these organizations may have already received an email with a link to the survey (and hopefully have already completed it). However, if you are not a member of one of these national organizations OR have NOT received an email from your organization inviting you to take the survey, here’s how you can share your views:

The survey is available online for US residents here.

The survey is available online for Canadian residents here.

The survey takes approximately 30 minutes to complete, and participation is entirely voluntary. The research team will NOT have any way of personally identifying you or your responses, and will not contact you for any purposes unrelated to this survey or give your information to any commercial organizations. For questions or feedback, please contact Louise M. Roth, PhD.

 

Childbirth Education, Lamaze International, Maternal Quality Improvement, Maternity Care, Patient Advocacy, Research, Research Opportunities , , , , , , ,

Part One: Maternal Morbidity and Mortality in the United States: where do we go from here?

January 2nd, 2012 by avatar

Last week, we featured the five-part completion of Christine Morton and Kathleen Pine’s assessment of the current Maternal Quality Care landscape in the United StatesWhat a great way to close out the year by scrutinizing the measures our nation is taking–at both the federal and community levels–to improve the quality of maternity care.  This week, as we contemplate the year that lies before us, I would like to add some additional thoughts on the state of our maternity care system, and offer some ideas on policy and programming that might be instituted at various levels to continue that process of improvement.

On December 16, 2011, Diane Sawyer and her 20/20 team ran a special episode entitled, Giving Birth:  A Risky Proposition.  The forty-minute segment spoke of the risks associated with giving birth in some of the poorest places on earth–and the people and organizations who are working to change that.  Unarguably, women in many places outside the U.S. face down a life-and-death proposition with each conception and birth, and when we look at our maternity care system, comparatively, we are able to utter those powerful words: we are so lucky.  And yet…

Last semester in my Public Health MCH program, I wrote a series of papers looking at the maternal morbidity and mortality rates here in the U.S. and what type of attention these issues seem to garner at our own federal and local legislation and community levels.  Over the next five days, I’d like to share some of these thoughts with you.
[note: references for this five-day series will be made available at the conclusion of the last post]


Maternal Mortality:  An Overview of the Increasing Trend in the United States

According to the preliminary, 2009 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Vital Statistics Reports, the leading five causes of death in the United States remain: heart disease, cancer, chronic (lower) respiratory disease, cerebrovascular disease and accidents (Centers for Disease Control, 2011). According to the CDC Vital Statistics report, 10 out of the 15 leading causes of death in the U.S. decreased in total number of people affected between 2008 and 2009. As these causes of death continue to gain—and benefit from—public health attention, their relative risk to the general population is gradually dropping.  However, there is another cause of death in the United States which has garnered much less public health attention, despite an increase in recent decades.

According to the report, Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990-2008 (World Health Organization, 2010) between the years of 1990 – 2008, the estimated maternal mortality ratio for the United States increased from 12 to 24/100,000—an increase of 3.7% per year. A more conservative estimate places our ratio at 12.7 deaths per 100,000 live births (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2010). Amnesty International’s Deadly Delivery Report (2011), cautions that while 147 countries decreased their maternal mortality numbers, 23 countries experienced an increase—the United States being one of them.  And according to the report, Maternal Mortality in the United States, 1935-2007 (Singh, 2010) of the roughly 4 million women who give birth in the U.S. each year, black, Native American and low income/impoverished women maintained significantly higher maternal mortality rates than women of other races.  In fact in 2005, the maternal mortality rate for African American women was 36.5 per 100,000 (Kung, Hoyert, Xu, & Murphy, 2005). While 99% of global maternal mortality incidences occur in developing nations (World Health Organization, 2010), there seems to be a disturbing disconnect between the otherwise excellent medical system the United States boasts, and this increasing trend in maternal death.  With 2015 looming, the fifth of the Millennium Development Goals—to decrease world-wide maternal mortality by 75%, and our country’s maternal mortality ratio to 3.3 deaths per 100,000 live births (Gaskin, 2008)—seems to be a long way off for those nations like ours which are still experiencing increases in maternal mortality (http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/maternal.shtml).
Maternal mortality is defined as follows: the death of a female of childbearing age during or within 42 days of the completion of pregnancy, due to complications associated with the pregnancy, or management of the pregnancy, and excluding non-pregnancy-related accidents or injuries (Ronsmans & Graham, 2006).   The primary causes of maternal death world-wide are severe bleeding, hypertensive diseases, and infections.  Here in the U.S., hemorrhage is also the leading cause, followed by embolism and hypertensive disorders (Berg, Atrash, Koonin & Tucker, 1996).
Despite the estimated $86 billion per year spent on pregnancy-related hospitalization, women who are pregnant and giving birth in the United States are more likely to die during this time in their lives than they are in 50 other countries around the world (Amnesty International, 2011).  In 2007, there were 548 officially documented maternal deaths—slightly higher than the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ estimation of 12.7 deaths per 100,000 live births (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2010).  Perhaps then, the simplistic question to ask is, “If we are spending so much money each year on maternity care, why is the maternal death rate in our country climbing when expenditures—estimated to be in the hundreds of billions of dollars—on other health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, are resulting in declining death rates?” (Heindrich, et al., 2011)
From Amnesty International’s Deadly Delivery report: “According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately half of all maternal deaths in the USA are preventable. Preventable maternal mortality is not just a public health issue, it is a human rights issue.” (Amnesty International, 2011)

            Beyond being a public health and human rights issue, maternal mortality in the United States is a systemic tracking issue. Compared to the United Kingdom where a maternal mortality auditing report entitled, Saving Mothers’ Lives: Reviewing Maternal Deaths to Make Motherhood Safer is published every triennium, here in the U.S. we have no federally mandated method of tracking pregnancy-related deaths (Confidential Enquiry into Maternal and Child Health [CEMACH], 2007).  Disappointingly, 29 of our states have no internal maternal mortality review procedure in place (Amnesty International, 2011).  Without a centralized method to track deaths pertaining to pregnancy, estimates of maternal mortality in our country are little more than that—crude estimates which may represent gross underreporting.

 

In tomorrow’s post, I will suggest ways of implementing several health behavior models which might be employed to start chipping away at our country’s excalating maternal morbidity and mortality rates.

Posted by:  Kimmelin Hull, PA, LCCE, FACCE

 

Maternal Mortality, Maternal Mortality Rate, Maternal Quality Improvement, Maternity Care , , , , , , , , , ,