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Difficult child birth process, obstetricians supporting  pregnant female
Paulson & Nace
(202) 463-1999

There is an ongoing debate involving the high rate of deaths of pregnant women during labor and delivery in this country. In September, the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics released a report on the United States maternal death rates. The researchers reported that the maternal death rate increased from 17.4 to 32.9 per 100,000 live births from 2018-2021. However, a new study published this March in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (AJOG) reported smaller figures. The AJOG reported the maternal death rate at 10.4 deaths per 100,000 births. 

The AJOG research was spearheaded by researchers from Rutgers and the University of British Columbia (UBC) with Dr. K.S. Joseph, an epidemiologist in the OB-GYN department of UBC serving as lead author. According to an interview with National Public Radio, Joseph said the reason for the conflicting numbers lies in the differing ways the two groups of researchers handled data on the death certificates. In the last few years, different states have begun using an updated, national death certificate that includes a pregnancy box to be checked off concerning the maternal mortality rate on the certificate. Some states use it, while others still need to add it. 

The bottom line is that the numbers in the two reports came out differently because the CDC researchers relied on the new system more than Joseph’s group did. 

Both sets of researchers stand by their results. 

More Communication Needed to Prevent Birth Injuries

While there is a wide margin between the two sets of results, the focus should be on the care of pregnant and laboring mothers. As Dr. Elizabeth Cherot, the March of Dimes President, stated following the release of The AJOG report, “One maternal death is one too many, and we simply cannot overlook the fact that as a nation we’re not doing any better at saving moms’ lives today than we were 20 years ago.”

Labor and delivery can be a stressful time and a mother should be able to put her sole focus on that. Unfortunately, not all mothers receive the support they should in the delivery room or during the months leading up to or following the birth of their child.

In an effort to ensure pregnant women are not mistreated, the CDC launched the “Hear Her’’ campaign in conjunction with the results of another survey, this one with data gathered directly from mothers. 

The results showed a disconnect between medical providers and mothers in hospitals and doctor’s offices across the country with one in five women saying they believed they were mistreated during delivery. Along with that, one-third of black, Hispanic, and multiracial mothers surveyed said they believed they experienced mistreatment while under medical care for their pregnancy. 

The data was gathered from women of different races and differing cultures with seven in ten self-reporting as white, 10.7 percent as black, 10.2 percent as Hispanic, 4.8 percent as Asian, 2.8 percent as multiracial and 1.5 percent as American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander. 

Most of the respondents (65 percent) reported having their youngest child five or more years before taking the survey and over 50 percent said they were privately insured, with about a third covered by Medicaid during their youngest child’s delivery.

Here are some other key facts from the survey:

  • One in five mothers reported being mistreated by their doctor or other medical professionals during their pregnancy. 
  • Ten percent of those surveyed said a healthcare provider ignored them or ignored a request for help.
  • Seven percent reported being shouted at or scolded by medical staff.
  • Five percent said their physical privacy was violated.
  • Four percent said that the medical provider threatened to withhold treatment or forced them to accept unwanted treatment.

During the “Hear Her” campaign launch in August, Dr. Debra Houry, the CDC’s chief medical officer, stressed the need for doctors and labor teams to focus on respectful maternity care. Such care includes “preventing harm and mistreatment, communicating effectively, and providing equitable and unbiased care,” Houry said. 

Dr. Wanda Barfield, the director of the CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health also encouraged the nation’s health systems to battle issues of racism by investing in hiring and training a diverse workforce “conscious of unconscious bias.”

“We know that racism and discrimination can lead to delays in treatment and sometimes tragic and preventable deaths,” Barfield said. “Healthcare provider training on unconscious bias and culturally appropriate care may be a first step in understanding how to provide respectful maternity care to all women.”

What Can Pregnant Women and Labor Partners Watch For

While a doctor is required to provide the standard level of care during pregnancy and labor to keep both the mother and child healthy and safe, mothers and their birth partners should also advocate for their safety and recognize dangers associated with childbirth, preparing well in advance of the delivery day.

Some of the potential birth injuries that could occur during labor include the following:

  • Vaginal tearing
  • A ruptured uterus
  • Nerve damage
  • Hemorrhaging
  • Pelvic fractures
  • Postnatal traumatic stress disorder
  • Complications with preeclampsia

If a mother is exhibiting any of the symptoms associated with these injuries or conditions, they must let their doctor know immediately, to protect her health and the health of the child. To learn more about potential urgent maternal warning signs visit the CDC’s “Hear Her” page.

Labor and delivery negligence can cause significant emotional and financial consequences. It is not just the injured infant or mother who suffers. All those who rely on them and love them suffer the consequences of a birth injury too. The Washington DC birth injury attorneys at Paulson & Nace have 40 years of experience and know the importance of receiving legal support with birth injury malpractice cases.

If you or someone you know was injured during childbirth, talk to a birth injury lawyer today. Contact Paulson & Nace online or call 202-463-1999 for a free case consultation.

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