Giving birth? You're in more danger than you probably realize

Women in America are dying to give birth -- and nobody is doing much about it.

An in-depth study by USA Today found that America's maternal death rates are staggeringly high. Approximately two mothers die in childbirth every single day -- and uncounted thousands are put at risk of death during their pregnancies and deliveries.

And it doesn't have to be this way. In the rest of the world, maternal death rates are falling even as they've been steadily rising in the United States. The maternal death rates in other developed nations, like Japan, Canada and England, are less than a third of those in the U.S. Experts generally agree that there's no good reason that American women are dying because 50 percent of those deaths could be easily prevented through better medical care.

What's going on? Essentially, doctors and hospitals know what they need to do to prevent maternal deaths during labor and childbirth -- they just aren't doing it. Since nobody is forcing them to keep track of their records for maternal safety, they don't do that either.

Pre-eclampsia and blood loss are two of the major killers that women face during pregnancy and childbirth. The USA Today study discovered that many hospitals simply ignored the recommended care procedures for many women with those conditions -- with some hospitals exercising remarkably less adequate care than others.

There's almost no way for women to know ahead of time whether their doctor and hospital have a decent track record for maternal care. However, expectant mothers and their partners can take steps to improve their position. Talk to your doctor about his or her treatment plan if you have high blood pressure and ask questions. Similarly, ask your doctor what sort of bleeding is normal following your delivery -- and what to do if you feel that something is wrong. That encourages doctors to pay attention to the risks and not take your care for granted.

If you suspect that your loved one suffered an unnecessary injury or died of preventable complications during pregnancy or childbirth, take action by finding out more about your legal rights. While there are a few doctors and hospitals taking active steps to change the statistics surrounding maternal birth injuries, most of them won't do anything until it becomes too costly not to take action.

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Vincent J. DeSalvo, Attorney at Law
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