Pregnancy is supposed to be a happy time, full of new beginnings, poopy diapers, and late-night feedings (okay, so maybe itâ€™s an exhausting time). But itâ€™s a dangerous proposition for a growing number of women in the United States. The Los Angeles Times recently ran a story about the increasing maternal death rateâ€”two women die every single day of problems related to pregnancy and childbirth, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. The maternal mortality rateâ€”thatâ€™s the number of women who die within 42 days of deliveryâ€”is higher than that of 40 other industrialized nations, despite the fact that we spend more per birth than any other country in the world, and for every woman who dies, another 50 are extremely ill following delivery (think: hemorrhaging and kidney failure).
Experts arenâ€™t exactly sure why these numbers are trending upward, but they suspect itâ€™s at least in part because preexisting conditions (like cardiovascular disease and diabetes precipitated by obesity) arenâ€™t being diagnosed or considered during prenatal treatment. Itâ€™s also a gender, race, and economic issue. A study conducted by the CDC, state health departments across the country, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists discovered that Black women are nearly four times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complicationsÂ than white women. And Amnesty International reports that almost 13 million women between the ages of 15 and 44 are uninsured, and women of color are less likely to receive prenatal care. When we do actually get care, we often have little say in the critical decisions that surround birthâ€”a fact that has contributed to nearly a third of births being via Cesarean, which in turn contributes to the increased mortality rate. And before you ask, the recent health reforms have little immediate affect on the issue: People (like me) who have to buy insurance on the individual market are screwed every day when it comes to maternity coverageâ€”you see, pregnancy is considered a preexisting condition.
What can we do about it? On a personal level, we have to take more control over our bodies when it comes to both the small decisions (â€œWhat should I eat today?â€) and the big ones (â€œShould I have a scheduled C-section?â€). Collectively, we can join with Amnesty International in lobbying Congress to introduce and support the “Global MOMS Act,” and push them to establish an Office of Maternal Affairs to advocate for womenâ€™s rights and improve access to and quality of maternal care in the States.
Several people whom Iâ€™m close to have experienced difficult pregnancies and deliveries of lateâ€”and donâ€™t get me started on just how hard it is to buy maternity coverage. Do you have any stories to share? Any insights, or suggestion on what we can do to tackle this problem? Do share.
If you like Kenryaâ€™s opinion, check out the rest of her posts below.
Last 5 posts by kenrya
- More Than Hair: How a Mom's Blowout Affected Her Daughter - March 15th, 2013
- No White Dolls Allowed: One Mom on Choosing Brown Dolls for Her Brown Girl - December 21st, 2012
- Why I'm Still Breastfeeding My One-Year-Old - August 8th, 2012
- My Family Never Thought I'd Have Kids, But I Did: Black + Green Mama - June 22nd, 2012
- 'Start It Up'!: Parlour Columnist Kenrya Rankin Tackles Teen — & Adult — Entrepreneurship - December 23rd, 2011