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WSJ On Steep Rise in Maternal Birth Complications in the U.S.

When we think about the quality of medical care in the United States today, there is a tendency to automatically assume it is moving in a linear direction. As with everything else, we assume quality of care progresses without interruption year after year. Patients are safer today than they were last year and were safer last year than the year before that–or so we think.

While more and more medical advances have undoubtedly built up over the years, it is a mistake to automatically assume that patient safety has similarly improved significantly. In other words, medical professionals have more treatment options than ever before, but that doesn’t mean that medical patients are less likely to fall victim to a medical error than ever before. That is true in many medical settings, including childbirth.

For example, the Wall Street Journal published a story this week on the alarming rise of maternal complications during childbirth. According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the previous decade there was a sharp increase in the rate of severe complications for mothers during and after the delivery of a child. Those complications include respiratory problems, kidney failure, and cardiac arrest. In some cases those problems were 75% more common in the last decade compared with the previous one.

The article explains how of the roughly 4 million annual births, 52,000 result in severe maternal complications which are life-threatening.

Causes & Solutions
One of the main reasons for the significant increase in severe complications is the increasing pregnancies which are deemed “high risk.” These include mothers who may be older or obese. Also, more woman with chronic health problems like kidney disease and diabetes are giving birth now compared to the past.

But high-risk pregnancies are not the only thing that leads to life-threatening complications during childbirth. In fact, the most common severe maternal birth problem is hemorrhaging–severe bleeding–which affects even the healthiest of mothers.

It is important that more focused be placed on these maternal risks, as they often receive less attention that birth injuries affecting the actual babies. Historically childbirth has always been one of the most common ways that women were killed or injured. In some parts of the world the maternal death rates remain incredibly high. While many strides have been made over the decades in many places, it is a mistake to forget about the risks that remain, even in the most developed countries.

Considering the dangers, it remains incredibly important for medical professionals to be prepared and to act appropriately when signs of problems develop. A professional interview for the WSJ story explained that, “Regardless of age or health, when things go wrong they can go south very fast, and you need a well-oiled team trained to respond in times of crisis.”

If you or a loved one may not have received reasonable medical care during childbirth leading to harm to the mother or child, please get in touch with the lawyers at our firm. We have extensive experience with these and are available to help.

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