How the US Stacks Up Among Affluent Countries for Pregnant Women’s Health and Avoidable Complications

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In the realm of pregnancy complications and preventable deaths, America falls behind ten other prosperous nations, according to a new study.

Study Investigating Preventable Complications for Pregnant Women in Rich Countries

In a study conducted by the Commonwealth Fund, women in the United States died more often from avoidable pregnancy and delivery-related complications compared to 10 other developed nations. Whether lapses in the healthcare system, affordability, or inconsistency in care, the U.S. maternal mortality rate is highest among other wealthy countries, such as Sweden, France, and Australia. Here, we explore why.

Top Reasons for America’s Failures in Preventing Pregnancy Complications and Deaths

Those pregnant women who pay unaffordable out-of-pocket costs or do not have assigned doctors miss out on prenatal care critical to preventing complications. Other factors affecting maternal mortality in the study include flaws in the healthcare system and healthcare teams that deliver babies. Below, we delve into each of the key factors depriving pregnant women in America of the care they need and deserve.

Reason #1: Absence of Medical Care

One reason for maternal fatalities is missing medical care during pregnancy. Prenatal care allows healthcare providers to check on the health of a mother and baby and treat problems as they arise. When the same doctor sees an expectant mother regularly and remains attuned to changes in her health during the various stages of pregnancy, they can detect health problems and potential complications early. Early detection often paves the way for early treatment, meaning the difference between life and death. For example, the prenatal visit includes a thorough health history discussion of the women’s conditions, pregnancies, and surgeries. It also involves a family health history and potentially inherited conditions that may affect the pregnancy, fetus, and woman herself. In addition, pelvic exams, blood pressure checks, and blood and urine tests help doctors discover pregnancy conditions like gestational diabetes, HIV, preeclampsia, and infections that often cause complications if untreated.

Without checkups and tests, pregnant women may be harboring diseases and health conditions that could harm them individually, and potentially jeopardize the health of their baby at birth. For example, preeclampsia is typically recognized as high blood pressure that can cause organ failure, blood clotting issues, fluid in the lungs, seizures, and death if left untreated. In addition, gestational diabetes can cause postpartum hemorrhage, prolonged labor, and other complications leading to C-section deliveries. Further, untreated infections can lead to sepsis, septic shock, organ failure, and maternal fatality. All three conditions are treatable, and related complications preventable, with proper women’s health care.

Reason #2: Pre-Existing Conditions

In addition to missing or negligent prenatal care, the Commonwealth study cites the high number of pregnant women with chronic illness as contributing causes to maternal deaths. Obesity, heart problems, and diabetes are treatable conditions that often create complications during pregnancy and delivery. For example, diabetes is treatable with diet and medication. However, pregnant women with a history of diabetes have an increased risk of death due to cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and blood clots. Keeping their diabetes under control, however, may avoid disastrous consequences. Moreover, cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of maternal death. Women with heart disease may suffer a heart attack, stroke, pulmonary embolism, and postpartum cardiomyopathy (weak heart muscle) during pregnancy, childbirth, or postpartum. Proper medical care serves to prevent and treat these common conditions.

Reason #3: High Rates of C-Sections

Cesarean births also raise the risk of complications and fatalities. Cesarean deliveries result in hemorrhaging, infection, blood clots, and amniotic fluid embolism five-times more often than vaginal births. For pregnancies after the first birth, cesarean sections increase the rate of complications due to placenta previa and other forms of placental attachment to the uterine walls, which often end in hemorrhaging and partial or complete hysterectomy. Placental adherence occurs when part, or the whole placenta, becomes stuck on the uterus wall. Thus, excessive bleeding occurs when it rips away from the wall in childbirth. On the other hand, placenta previa occurs when the placenta obstructs the baby’s exit by covering the cervix entirely or partially. This condition, too, causes hemorrhages and damage to the elimination organs.

What Health Care Providers can do Better to Save Lives

A doctor’s job is not only to perform medical procedures and examinations. They must communicate essential medical information and follow up with vital care. If an ob-gyn, physician, or other healthcare professional sees a pregnant woman that does not return for scheduled visits, their office should follow up with her and impress upon her the need to keep up with prenatal appointments throughout the pregnancy. Educating women about potential complications, especially those with pre-existing conditions, is crucial to saving lives. Likewise, if costs prevent pregnant women from seeking prenatal care, healthcare providers can direct women in need to more affordable options and government funding for medical services. In sum, communication with clients about the importance of maintaining pregnancy health with a medical provider can help to prevent unnecessary deaths.

Ask the Right Questions

Further, when physicians perform their duties appropriately, they ask their patients the right questions. They take patient vitals, do physical examinations, run tests, and refer their patients to specialists who can monitor and treat conditions that threaten the health of a mother and her baby. Thus, a healthcare provider who does not ask the right questions may miss an expectant mother’s reports about breathlessness, which could be a symptom of heart disease.

Run the Right Tests

Failing to run the proper tests or follow up with test results can also lead to pregnancy complications. For example, running glucose tests at 24 and 28 weeks allows a doctor to determine if diabetes is a growing concern or adequately managed. Gestational diabetes can make babies too large to fit through the mother’s pelvis and, therefore, deliverable by cesarean section.

In addition to doctors failing to communicate the importance of prenatal care, know a patient’s health history, run the appropriate tests, and ask the right questions, physicians must ensure they have the proper specialists on hand to assist in complicated births if necessary. They must also ensure that pregnant women see the right specialists during pregnancy when appropriate to treat health problems that endanger their lives in pregnancy and childbirth.

Make the Right Delivery Decisions

Obstetricians must also prepare for, immediately recognize the need for, or prevent cesarean births, making the right decision at the right time to remove the baby surgically or allow a vaginal birth to continue, given a mother’s medical condition.

When medical professionals neglect the needs of mothers soon to give birth, during, or after labor and delivery, the results are often tragic. They may be negligent in overcrowding their schedule, failing to enforce strict communication protocols among their staff and patients, or keeping up on the latest techniques and strategies to prevent and rectify complications when they arise. Regardless of the reason, the price of their failures when caring for pregnant and birthing women are simply too high.

Talk to a New Jersey Pregnancy and Birth Malpractice Lawyer to Understand Your Rights

If your physician failed to perform medical services competently before, during, or after pregnancy, causing you serious complications or causing your loved one to perish, seek legal counsel. A skilled pregnancy and birth malpractice lawyer at our New Jersey firm, Fronzuto Law Group, can advise you about medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuits that we often handle on behalf of mothers and the families who love them. We serve clients throughout the state of New Jersey, and consult on birth injury and pregnancy complication-related cases nationwide.

If you have questions about filing a claim for pregnancy or birth related injuries, let us help you take the first steps toward getting the compensation you deserve.

Contact Fronzuto Law Group for a free consultation with a lawyer today.
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