Maternal Mortality Rate Falls Worldwide But Not In The US, Why?

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Maternal Mortality Rate Falls Globaly by 44% – US Rate Rises

The World Health Organization has just issued a report on maternal mortality rates, and globally, the mortality rate for pregnant women has fallen by almost half. In 2015, the rate suggests that 303,000 pregnant women will die.

In 1990, 532,000 died. The maternal mortality rate (MMR) is 216 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, down from 385 in 1990. Iceland, Finland, Poland and Greece have just 3 per 100,000, and Belarus showed the greatest improvement falling to 4 per 100,000 from 33.

Only 13 countries have seen their MMR deteriorate; the US is one of them along with countries like North Korea and Zimbabwe. It’s a national embarrassment.

US maternal mortality rate has fallen from 12 deaths per 100,000 to 14 deaths per 100,000 over the past 25 years.

On the whole, the MMR correlates closely with economic development. Richer countries can spend more on healthcare, and their medical centers are more likely to have the medical equipment needed to save lives during a difficult pregnancy. The WHO press release states, “By the end of this year, about 99% of the world’s maternal deaths will have occurred in developing regions, with Sub-Saharan Africa alone accounting for 2 in 3 (66%) deaths.”

WHO also said, “The greatest improvement of any region was recorded in Eastern Asia, where the maternal mortality ratio fell from approximately 95 to 27 per 100 000 live births (a reduction of 72%). In developed regions, maternal mortality fell 48% between 1990 and 2015, from 23 to 12 per 100 000 live births.” Eastern Asia also experienced significant economic growth between 1990 and this year.

Why Is The US Maternal Mortality Rate Twice The Level Of Canada?

So, why is the USA, the richest country in the world, stuck in the middle of the developed world standings and why has it experienced an MMR twice the Canadian rate?

Simply put, access to the US healthcare system is unequal. The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, increased health insurance coverage by millions, but it did not become law until 2010, and its main provisions are just kicking in now. For most of the period the WHO study examines, the ACA was not law.

health-inequality-health-and-social-problems-worse-in-more-uneaqual-countries
Patterns between social inequality and health-Image Source: This is not a sociology 

Moreover, even with the Act in place, one in eight Americans lacks health insurance. Gallup has stated, “The uninsured rate among U.S. adults for the fourth quarter of 2014 averaged 12.9%. This is down slightly from 13.4% in the third quarter of 2014 and down significantly from 17.1% a year ago. The uninsured rate has dropped 4.2 percentage points since the Affordable Care Act’s requirement for Americans to have health insurance went into effect one year ago.”

Healthy adults need to see a doctor only once every year or two, but pregnant women are definitely an exception to this. Womenshealth.gov says: Your doctor will give you a schedule of all the doctor’s visits you should have while pregnant.

Most experts suggest you to see your doctor:

About once each month for weeks 4 through 28

Twice a month for weeks 28 through 36

Weekly for weeks 36 to birth

If you are older than 35 or your pregnancy is high risk, you’ll probably see your doctor more often.

That works out to more than a dozen doctor visits if the pregnancy is normal and the child is born in the usual nine months. If your insurance covers these visits, they can be wonderful for both parents (says this grandfather). If not, the economic pressure to make a bad medical decision is a real problem.

Problems With Teenage Pregnacies

In addition, the US has a significant problem with teenage pregnancies. While the figure is down, it remains about nine times greater than the average for developed countries. “In 2011, 22 percent of births to females under age 15, and 10 percent of births to teens ages 15 to 19, were to those receiving late or no prenatal care, according to Child Trends, a nonprofit research organization. The younger they are the more likely they may wait until their third trimester to seek care”, according to a 2003 study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The ACA should help reduce the MMR in the US, but until the remaining 12.9% of Americans have health insurance (or until finances cease affecting the decision to see a doctor), the US will not be top of the list.


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