Alarmingly, based on a 2017 study, the U.S. has the worst rate of maternal deaths in the developed world. Let that sink in. While mortality rates have declined throughout Europe, Australia, and Canada since 1990, the U.S.’s rate has grown exponentially. There are many reasons for this, including hospitals maternity care performance standards.
Based on this 2017 study, for every 100,000 live births, there is a 26.4 maternal mortality rate (MMR) in the U.S. Followed by 9.2 in the U.K and 9 in both Portugal and France. That is a 65% difference between the U.S. and the U.K.
There are many factors tied to this including access to healthcare coverage, quality health care services, as well as poverty and low-income households.
The Leapfrog Group, a national advocate for hospital transparency, released a report based off surveys of more than 2,000 hospitals throughout the U.S. The findings concluded that the majority of providers failed to meet Leapfrog’s best practices for all three maternity care interventions: C-sections, episiotomies, and early elective deliveries.
For example, C-sections are performed for 1 in every 3 births in the U.S. Sometimes these are a medically necessary emergency procedure, but often times they are done for the convenience of the provider or the patient. There are risks associated with C-sections, including infection, blood clots and longer recovery times. Babies can also have increased risks including breathing difficulties and children born via C-section have been linked to an increased risk of developing childhood diseases like diabetes or asthma.
While there have been increases in some categories, there has been a significant decrease in early elective deliveries. From 17% in 2010 to 1.5% in 2018 which is under the Leapfrog best practice target of 5%.
Leapfrog CEO, Leah Binder, feels the potential is there. “When the healthcare industry decides it’s time to improve care they accomplish that. When they don’t put their minds to a goal of improving maternity care, we see stagnation.”
While the U.S. has long strides to go to reduce their maternal mortality rates to be comparable with other developed nations, looking at the performance standards set by Leapfrog and striving to achieve them would be the first step in a multi-layered problem.