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Women Ages 20 - 24: USA is No. 8 in Increased Maternal Death Rate Worldwide

Updated on May 2, 2014

Maternal Health Down the Drain in America, Especially in Georgia

Concerned, I read 100 pages of medical research and a handful of sketchy press releases about increasing death rates among women in infant delivery and one-year postpartum, around the world.

The related information about the United States is not good for the decade 2003 - 2013. Our rate of maternal death increased. Further, countries having better rates than the USA include China, Russia, and the UK.

Delving through the research was quite frustrating, because nowhere did it state the names and rankings of the Top Eight Countries with Increasing Maternal Mortality Rates (MMRs).

A few media sources mentioned two countries each in the Top Eight, but the Central African nations were not named. Therefore, I looked through 180 countries' worth of data to find the full Top Eight with worsening problems of maternal deaths.

America is at the bottom of the top third of nations with low maternal death rates (No. 60 out of 180 countries). We used to be at No. 27 (meaning that we were much lower in these deaths), until 2003. The most at-risk for this type of death are women from ages 20 to 24 and their deaths have doubled from 1990 to the end of 2013.

While the MMR is rising across America, the worst rate occurs in Georgia.

What happened?

Women Ages 20 - 24 Are At Risk

This age group is the most likely group among American women to die during pregnancy, childbirth, or one year thereafter.
This age group is the most likely group among American women to die during pregnancy, childbirth, or one year thereafter. | Source

Official CDC Definition of MMR

Maternal Mortality is a mother's death related to pregnancy.

Definition: "Death of a woman while pregnant or within one year of pregnancy termination from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management."

Pregnancy termination refers to instances of miscarriage (spontaneous abortion), purposeful abortion, removal of ectopic pregnancies (inside the Fallopian Tubes, which is deadly), fetuses dying in the womb, and others.

Marked Increase In MMR After 1990 in the USA

Data from CDC and IHME
Data from CDC and IHME | Source

The Case of Georgia

The Georgia State Department of Public Health announced that several projects would be put into action early in 2014 to stop maternal deaths. Partners in this project include other women's, nurses' and health organizations.

Of particular importance is the “Postpartum Hemorrhage Project” that is also being operated in Washington DC and the State of New Jersey. Its goal is to stop women from bleeding to death.

In addition, the CDC reports that increasing numbers of pregnant American women suffer from chronic health conditions, including hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, and chronic heart disease. While the CDC does to specifically relate these to maternal death, it is known that these conditions increase risk for procedures such as surgery.

The demographic category "Black/African American" is not the explanation for the highest MMR in the US being found in Georgia -- Mississippi has a higher percentage of Black residents in equal proportions male and female (31% & 37% African-American per state, respectively). African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans do, however, suffer from higher rates of hypertension and diabetes cases than do whites.

One marked rise in US maternal deaths occurred in 2009, attributed to the H1N1 flu pandemic of that year.

Reference: Retrieved May 2, 2014.

Every Mother Counts - One Dies Every Two Minutes

On every Mother's Day and every other day, 800 women lose their lives during pregnancy or childbirth. That adds up to one woman dead every two minutes. That's 120 seconds. That's the maximum amount of time McDonald's says that a customer should stand in line.

And, 90% of those 800 deaths are preventable. That's 720 lives saved.

Where MMR is Increasing

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B markerSouth Sudan -
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C markerGuinea-Bissau -
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D markerEl Salvadore -
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E markerBelize -
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F markerSeychelles -
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G markerGreece -
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H markerAmerica - USA -
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Countries With Increasing Maternal Death Rates from 2003 - 2013

Only eight nations out of 180 countries round the world experienced an increase in MMR during the decade 2003 - 2013. These include:

  • Afghanistan
  • South Sudan
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • El Salvadore
  • Belize
  • Seychelles
  • Greece
  • USA

While America is at the bottom of the list of eight, our country still experiences a rise in MMR. However, medical advancements, technological innovations, and the status as a high-income country would indicate that the MMR in the United States should be decreasing.

Reasons for Increasing Maternal Deaths

Several sources suggest the following causes and reasons:

  • Low Income and the inability to access prenatal and other health services.
  • More pregnancies complicated by obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other conditions.
  • Some women do not heal completely before becoming pregnant again.
  • Possibility - Sleep Apnea, sometimes associated with obesity.
  • Approximately one-quarter of maternal deaths studied occurred during childbirth and the 24 hours afterward.
  • One-quarter of MMRs happen during pregnancy.
  • One-half of MMRs happen during the first year after delivering a baby.

Some individuals blame Obamacare for the increasing MMR in America since 2003, but Obamacare was not in effect until 2013, when only parts of the program were initiated.

Researchers of a major project combining 61 studies in MMR defined nine causes: of these deaths:

  • Bleeding/Bleeding Out
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure) related to pregnancy
  • Maternal Infections, including sepsis
  • Abortions
  • Obstructed Labor
  • HIV
  • Other direct disorders in the mother
  • Indirect disorders in the mother
  • Late maternal death (within one year after the baby was born)

Prenatal, labor/delivery, and postpartum healthcare are all important in the life of both the infant and the mother. A woman planning to have children would best attend to adequate healthcare for herself before becoming pregnant as well.

Reference: Kassebaum, Nicholas J. "Global, regional, and national levels and causes of maternal mortality during 1990–2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013." Lancet. Pages 1-24.May 2, 2014.

Some Countries Better than USA at Reducing Maternal Deaths

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ChinaRussiaUnited Kingdom
China | Source
Russia | Source
United Kingdom
United Kingdom | Source


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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 3 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Thanks for your views and experiences. Texas can be a tough state in which to live, judging from numerous friends' reports who have lived their for several years at a time.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 3 years ago from North Texas

      While the U.S. residents are proud of their state-of-the-art medical services, the fact is that these services are only available to people with insurance or money.

      As you probably know, most of the red states have refused to expand their Medicaid programs under Obama Care even though the federal government would pick up the tab for the first few years. The very people Obama Care was intended to help the most will see no benefit if they live in one of the red states like Texas.

      The U.S. actually has a higher mortality rate generally, as well as in regard to pregnant women, new mothers, and babies than most other countries, and has had for a long time. That's just a few of the ways the U.S. tries to keep the level of poor people from getting higher.

      Glad to see you're getting the word out about this. Not nearly enough people know how things really work in this country.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 3 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Hi, teaches12345 - Something is changing for the worst in American nutrition and healthcare to result in these problems, which I agree are tragic, as you say. At the same time, my state is in the middle of outbreaks of the measles and mumps as well, diseases we thought we had eradicated. Our government wants the US to have the best healthcare on Earth, but it's not happening.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

      I was unaware of these figures and facts on increased maternal death. How horrible. Sorry to hear of the tragedy and devastation caused by poor nutrition and health care. Thank you for bringing this important issue to attention.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 3 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      I agree -- Sad and horrible, especially if we can prevent the problem. I hope all moms look after their health from now on.

    • epbooks profile image

      Elizabeth Parker 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      How very sad. I never knew about these deaths. WHat a shame!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 3 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      I felt that I had to find out the eight countries with increasing rates of maternal death and never thought about Greece being on the list, because of so heavy a mention across the Internet of the central African nations. Most of those African nations are decreasing the rate, although numbers are still high. The WHO wants to lower all MMRs significantly by 20015 and 2016. I hope Obamacare can help with that, but patient compliance is probably still the number one concern in medical treatment and eating healthy is not as "fun" for people who like the fast food commercials. Some don't like to cook, either, but some of the healthy foods are too expensive.

    • twoseven profile image

      twoseven 3 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      This is an incredibly important topic and I applaud you for tackling it. It's atrocious that our country is so high on this list. I appreciate all of your research on this and I hope it helps raise awareness so this happens less and less.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 3 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Thanks very much! I try to look for things that will help the most people with the most accurate information.

    • swilliams profile image

      Emunah La Paz 3 years ago from Arizona

      You are right about the high priced health food. Fast food is everywhere making it easy to access. I am so sorry to hear about your Great Aunt, several children with only 9 mos to a year between, she never had time heal, spending most of her adult life with child, very sad. Again I appreciate you sharing this must needed topic. As you are always good about covering helpful topics. Thanks!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 3 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Agreed on the eating habits and that is a sad story, indeed, swilliams! I had a great aunt that had several children with only 9 months to a year between. Her family found her bled out in the bathroom and slumped into the sink one night after dinner. It happens so fast, you can't call for help.

      It seems when I drive down the street, the lines at fast food drive thrus are longer every day, usually no matter what time of day. I also notice that healthy foods in the grocery stores are more and more expensive very week.

      Luckily, we have a new organic market that is reasonably priced and the owners put several really healthy foods on sale at slashed prices every week, with these incredibly low prices overlapping on Wednesdays when the prices change. So one day a week, we can stock up on on a double sale of fresh, cheap, good food. It's a blessing.

    • swilliams profile image

      Emunah La Paz 3 years ago from Arizona

      This is a great article very insightful! I believe that Most American Women have poor eating habits. If you visit other Countries such as China, for instant they eat healthier and workout more. If American women adopted the same habit the death rate would go down. I know of young girl in her twenties that died after giving birth to her son, her parents are now raising the child. It's very sad.