What is going on with the Maternal Mortality Rate?

Sorry about the lack of laughter today, but once in a while I have to be serious.  I recently heard about this poor family in Phoenix this week that suffered a monstrous loss when Erica Morales passed away after delivering quadruplets.  I have a personal connection here as my wife tried to die after delivering Russel.  It turns out, the only reason that she didn’t die after Russel, was that she tried to a lesser extent to die after Rembrandt.  For those that don’t know our family, Rembrandt (Remy) is kidlet #7 and Russel is kidlet #8.

Let’s get a little history here by going back to 2005.  Stacey gets pregnant in February and at some point in the summer gets put on high blood pressure medication.  The previous six pregnancies and deliveries were textbook in so many ways that this kinda came as a shock.  But we dealt with it and stopped at the store every day to check her blood pressure until we eventually purchased our own little electronic monitor.  When you think about thin threads in your past, this is a biggie in our family.  By me constantly watching her blood pressure, I learned that my 120/80 was smack dab in the middle of normal.  I have never been a fan of normal but in this case I never complained.  I still had no idea what the numbers meant (or mean for that matter), but that would not have helped my wife.  Just knowing what normal was, saved my wife’s live, and our family as far as I am concerned.

After Rembrandt came out in what I thought was a perfect delivery (after seven of them I assume I have some kind of experience in this), Stacey laid back and enjoyed the fruits of her labor for 6 hours…  then, for some crazy reason, she said something to me that I will never forget, “I feel light-headed”, and she faded off to sleep.  It was midnight and I thought, “hey, good for her, she deserves the rest”.  I sat in the corner, holding my brand new baby and watching the blood pressure monitor numbers change.  It wasn’t the numbers changing that bothered me, but the fact that they were only going one way, down.

I stepped outside the room to ask the nurse on duty what number would be too low on her monitor.  I was told that my wife was a high blood pressure risk and not worry about the numbers… and to not carry the baby around outside the room.  I sat back in my corner on my comfy chair/bed and watched the numbers drop some more.  I may have spent a few too many minutes kissing  Rembrandt but c’mon, he had that new baby smell.  Who can resist?

And then I looked up again.  I immediately walked back to the front counter and before the nurse could say anything about me still holding the baby, I looked at the 20-something doctor filling out paperwork and asked one question, “is 50 over 22 a low number?”.  The doctor was in the room before the nurse had time to stand up.  By the time I got in there he was yelling at the nurse to get a needle of something or other and sticking the oxygen mask over my wife’s face.  A quick needle into the IV tube and her numbers were climbing and all was well.

I don’t know how much thought I gave to anything.  I was concerned that the hospital turned off an alarm that would have alerted them to my wife dying because they deemed it not necessary.  I don’t think they do that anymore.

Three years later, we are back in the same hospital.  This time, my wife had no blood pressure issues and I was feeling mighty fine.  Kid number 8 was on the way.  There was one problem as Russel decided he wanted to come out sideways which forced a doctor to cut my wife’s stomach open to yank him out.  For the record, if there is any beauty for a father during delivery, it is gone during a c-section.  Just take my word for it and keep your eyes on your side of the curtain.

So here is Stacey, recovering from her eighth delivery.  They aren’t worried at all, there isn’t even a blood pressure monitor hooked up to my wife.  I am back in my chair with yet another perfect baby boy, enjoying the new baby smell.  It is late at night and my wife is tired.  I get it, but then she says those magic words for the second time in her life, “I am light-headed”.  I was in shock.  She fell asleep almost instantly and I went out to the nursing station (yes, with the baby again), and ordered them to get a blood pressure monitor on my wife immediately.  I must have used my asshole voice because there was no hesitation and no comment about the baby.  By the time the nurse had it beeping, she was pushing the button above my wife’s head and laying her flat.  After eight kids I never knew what that button did but apparently is pages every doctor in the hospital.  Within minutes there were six people swarming over my wife.  Over the next 12 hours, there were several doctors and every nurse in the maternity ward hovering over my wife.

I remember that the last doctor who gave her the blood transfusion and actually seemed to bring her back from the brink came up from the ER.  I am not sure what he was doing down there, but his feet were covered with blood and I thought that was weird that he would risk contamination in a maternity ward but at the time, I didn’t give a rat’s ass so long as he could save my wife.

Several times over that twelve-hour span, I sat in my corner with Russel listening to nurses tell doctors that they were losing my wife.  My wife still says that was one of the longest nights of her life but I would have traded places with her in a second.  Really, anyone who knows me knows that there is no chance of me raising eight kids on my own.  I think God knew that going in but He sure put the fear into me.

mortality_erica-carlosSo now we start to understand Carlos, new father of four infants.  My wife and I would have our work cut out for us with four new infants in the house.  I can’t imagine the world that this father is stepping into.  He has just lost his wife.  The one person he could always count on.  Now he is suddenly alone to raise these three daughters and a son.  This family will be in our prayers.

Now we get to the crux of the blog post.  Can someone please tell me how we live in a world that has a maternal mortality rate of almost 20 women out of 100,000 pregnancies?  When I say we, I mean America because I have always thought of our two countries as so similar… you are like my brothers from another mother down south… actually same mother.  You ran away and we were quietly asked to move out.  But let’s look at our three countries, America, Canada and the UK.

The researchers estimated that 18.5 mothers died for every 100,000 births in the U.S. in 2013, a total of almost 800 deaths. That is more than double the maternal mortality rate in Saudi Arabia and Canada, and more than triple the rate in the United Kingdom. ¹

the maternal mortality is seeing steady increases and has doubled over 25 years

the maternal mortality is seeing steady increases and has doubled over 25 years

This is the 21st century in, what people love to think of, a world leading country; yet over 650 women die each year in the US due to complications related to pregnancy and delivery.  Does anyone else find this insane?  What does it say to you that the American medical system pays more per capita (over $98 Billion) to hospitalize and care for pregnancy and childbirth, yet 49 countries do a better job of keeping mothers alive? ²

maternal-best-to-worstAnd now, if you aren’t shocked yet, I am going to point out something that simply blew my mind.  I understand the American Health Care system is in need of an overhaul.  I understand money talks but even with the vast disparity in income, how can race be such a big factor with pregnant women dying?  Does a pregnant woman not get the same care if she has no insurance?   We are talking about a human life, and potentially two of them, or more if you count the families involved.

Considerable racial disparities in pregnancy-related mortality exist. In 2011,  the pregnancy-related mortality ratios were

  • 12.5 deaths per 100,000 live births for white women.
  • 42.8 deaths per 100,000 live births for black women.
  • 17.3 deaths per 100,000 live births for women of other races ³

maternal_race-variancePlease.  Someone explain this travesty to me.  I would love to understand.

And please, if you click on one link from any of my blogs, please click here, where Erica Morales’s friend has started a fundraiser to help this young many and his new family.  Don’t think that your $5 or $20 won’t make a difference, and don’t think that there is already a small lottery in there.  Think about what you would do with four little mouths all crying for food at the same time.  needing to buy four strollers, four high chairs, four of every piece of clothing you will ever buy.  There will be no hand-me-downs in Carlos’s family, just a whole ton of new purchases.  Even second-hand clothes are going to cost a small fortune.

The money you donate will not just pay for financial items but allow this man some freedom from stress.  There is no amount of money that you could donate (but go ahead and try) that would take away this family’s pain, but you can help them to work through it without as large a financial burden.

¹  http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/maternal-deaths-in-childbirth-rise-in-the-us/2014/05/02/abf7df96-d229-11e3-9e25-188ebe1fa93b_story.html

² http://www.facethefactsusa.org/facts/more-us-mothers-dying-despite-expensive-care

³ http://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/maternalinfanthealth/pregnancy-relatedmortality.htm

One response to “What is going on with the Maternal Mortality Rate?

  1. Pingback: Americans need to vote… or do they… | A2Z with ADHD·

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