Death after childbirth remains a rarity ... but new research suggests that the tragic occurrence is on the rise -- and experts are at a loss to pinpoint the reason.
... the United States places 41st on the World Health Organization's list of safest countries for childbirth. As for 2006, 13 women out of every 100,000 died during or shortly after giving birth, which is higher than rates in Canada, the United Kingdom and Poland ...
That's around 550 deaths out of 4 million annual births across the country.
The federal government had set a goal to reduce maternal deaths by 2010, but the new numbers are four times higher than what they'd hoped to attain.
Health experts aren't pointing the finger at a specific cause, but they do hypothesize that more obese mothers might be a critical factor.
The high caesarean rates aren't an issue?
Many maternal fatalities are caused by undetected health issues, such as asthma or heart disease ...
Pregnancy can exacerbate pre-existing health conditions, leaving obese women -- who now make up 20 percent of pregnancies -- more susceptible to potentially fatal consequences.
... Cesarean sections might be another important factor. The number of women scheduling cesarean births has increased by 50 percent ... since 1996 ... the procedure is ... major surgery.
... most maternal fatalities aren't considered "preventable" ...
... advocates hope to see more preventive efforts earlier in pregnancies. That means improved awareness of complications among pregnant women and better screening efforts by doctors, along with thorough postnatal care.
No mention here of midwives, yet the WHO recommends that midwives are the most appropruate care providers for healthy, low-risk women.
Debate also persists over the safety of out-of-hospital births ... they've increased for the first time in two decades. The births still make up less than 1 percent of all births in the country, but home births in particular were up by 5 percent.