Childbirth is one of life’s greatest gifts. When a mother gives birth to a precious newborn, time stops for a moment. It’s pure magic — for most people.
But sadly, not for everyone.
In the worst of cases, a birth experience turns into an entirely preventable tragedy.
Some mothers never make it out of the delivery room or die soon thereafter, because of complications and/or because warning signs of an underlying illness were missed.
As a society we don’t like to think or talk about these occurrences, and that’s probably why you rarely read about them in the media.
But the investigative reporting outlet ProPublica has done a service to everyone by taking a deep dive into the subject, lifting the veil on these all too common and all too preventable tragedies.
Their ongoing series on pregnancy-related deaths is a must read. Because maternal care touches all of our lives.
It’s a startling statistic brought to light by ProPublica — particularly so when you consider our technological advances and the amount of money that we pour into our health care systems.
In every other wealthy country in the world, maternal death rates have gone down, according to the investigative series. Not so in America, where somewhere between 700 and 900 women die each year from pregnancy or birth-related causes — a number that continues to grow.
Even scarier? How much lower the number could be if hospitals and doctors took proper, preventative steps.
A 2018 report from maternal mortality review committees in nine states — Illinois included — found that 63 percent of pregnancy-related deaths were preventable.
Now, we should point out there are many, many doctors and nurses doing everything right, working hard each day to save and improve lives. We are friends with many of them.
But everybody — including the hospitals and medical professionals themselves — can agree that kind of number is unacceptable. Plain and simple.
The most common causes of maternal death, according to the report: hemorrhage (14 percent), cardiovascular and coronary conditions (14 percent), infection (11 percent), cardiomyopathy (11 percent), embolism (8 percent), preeclampsia and eclampsia (7 percent) and mental health conditions (7 percent).
By the way, when you look at these specific causes, the news gets worse. Nearly 70 percent of cardiovascular and hemorrhage deaths were preventable, the report notes.
So what is happening here? According to the research, the errors run the gamut.
Sometimes a missed or delayed diagnosis is to blame. Other times, there is miscommunication or lack of coordination between doctors, resulting in delayed treatment. A surprising number of doctors and nurses lack knowledge of what to do for an embolism. Screening errors or ineffective treatments can also play a role.
More often than not, there is a pileup of errors, with multiple players at fault. The result is a lot of finger pointing.
Our job is to root through all the finger pointing and determine who is to blame and why. We want to know exactly where the system failed the patient. Not only will this help compensate the family for their loss, but it can provide valuable knowledge to hopefully prevent future tragedies from occurring on what should be the most joyous day of a person’s life.
If you or a family member has experienced a failure in maternal care, contact our office. None of these stories should stay buried until a news organization has the tenacity to ferret them out.