Obesity, elective cesarean contribute to U.S. maternal mortality rate

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In the 14 years that I've worked in the world of obstetrics, I've witnessed three maternal deaths. All three occurred in the immediate postpartum period, all were unexpected, and all were devastating for everyone involved, but most of all for the families and children left without a mother.

In the U.S., when a woman goes into the hospital to have a baby everyone expects that she will come home a few days later, happy and healthy, with a new baby. While this is usually the case, maternal death does still occur.

... Women in the US are more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than women in Canada, Poland, Croatia and Greece, just to name a few. And black women in the United States are four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related problems than white women.

... it has changed little over the past 20 years. The Joint Commission on Hospital Accreditation has warned that the maternal mortality rate may be increasing once again.

... why are mothers still dying in the United States when we spend more on health care than any other country in the world?

Some of the most common causes of maternal death in this country are hemorrhage, postpartum blood clots and underlying cardiac disease.

The CDC cites the rise of obesity and elective cesarean rates as possible contributing factors to the problem. Hypertension, diabetes and asthma — all culprits in pregnancy-related complications — are all more common in obese women.

Although the risks of cesarean birth are relatively minimal, studies have shown a higher mortality rate when compared to vaginal birth ...