Despite advanced health care and a better understanding of the reproductive system, American women are experiencing high death rates from giving birth. The U.S. government has reported that the risk of death from childbirth, though small, is at the highest rate in decades. Experts believe that the blame lies in maternal obesity, age, and an increasing number of C-sections. There is also a factor of statistics in that the reports of childbirth deaths are reported differently now.

In 2004, the number of deaths per 100,000 live births in the United States was 13. This was up from 12 deaths in 2003, when researchers began to notice that the death rate was above 10 since 1977. In the end, this comes out to about 600 deaths per year, which is still small considering that almost one in every 100 women who gave birth 90 years ago died. In fact, as few as 50 to 100 extra deaths could raise the rate again. Also, it is the babies who are more at risk of dying than their mothers. The rate of infant mortality in the U.S. was 679 deaths for every 100,000 live births in 2004.

 The fact that there was any change at all may be contributed to the fact that in 2003, three U.S. states changed questions on their death certificates which may have linked more deaths to childbirth. Besides Montana and Idaho, California, the most populous state was one of the states to do this. With more women undergoing C-sections as well, the risk of this procedure can result in potentially-fatal conditions such as infections and blood clots. With more women undergoing the procedure, there will be more women who die from the procedure. The reason for more C-sections may have to do with the obesity issue that plagues the nation. Heavier women are said to have more complications from giving birth and have larger babies which make vaginal deliveries difficult, causing C-sections to be the better option at the time. Other characteristics that can increase the death rate include age, especially women in their late 30’s and 40’s who are more prone to complications. Race can play a factor which shows that black women are three times more likely to die from giving birth than white women. Maternal deaths are also known to be preventable 40 percent of the time, making the quality of health care a factor.

For those who have suffered through the loss of a loved one who has died giving birth, even the tiniest increase in childbirth deaths mirror the tragedy that these families have to endure. This is especially true if the problem can be prevented with healthier mothers, better healthcare, and accurate statistics.

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