Why are childbirth-related deaths of mothers on the rise in the U.S.?


Every two minutes, a woman dies from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth

October 8, 2018

I recently came across an interesting website run by drug manufacturer Merck, which makes some startling statements. Here are some of them.

· A woman in America in 1990 had a better chance of surviving childbirth that her own daughter does today.

· Every two minutes, a woman dies from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth.

· Maternal mortality (death) is on the rise in the United States, even as it is declining globally.

· Maternal morbidity, or severe complications during childbirth, is also a significant factor, impacting 60,000 women a year.

· African-American women are 3-4 times more likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth than Caucasian women.

· The leading causes of maternal death in the United States include excessive bleeding, high blood pressure, blood clots, and heart disease.

· Around one third of pregnant women do not receive adequate prenatal care.

Merck has started a project called Merck for Mothers, investing $500 million over 10 years to end preventable maternal deaths worldwide. The initiative has four major priorities:

  1. Ensuring that every hospital is prepared to respond to obstetric emergencies.
  2. Encouraging hospitals and state governments to count, review, and report every maternal death.
  3. Linking women with chronic conditions to care to improve health before, during, and after pregnancy.
  4. Raising awareness that maternal mortality and morbidity are serious, but solvable, problems.

As a Houston, Texas, medical malpractice attorney, I have handled cases and lawsuits where mothers were seriously injured or died during childbirth, and others where babies were born with permanent brain injuries. I am happy to learn of Merck’s new project and think its priorities are appropriate.

Responding to obstetric emergencies. As a former hospital administrator, I know that it is important for hospitals to think ahead about potential childbirth-related complications. This includes making sure that labor and delivery rooms are stocked with appropriate life-saving equipment for both mothers and babies. It also means that hospital leaders must develop policies and procedures to guide the safe care provided in their facilities. Then, hospitals must follow up by training staff and evaluating their competency.

Reporting maternal deaths. In Texas, there is a shroud of secrecy surrounding complications and bad outcomes that occur in hospitals. Hospital and peer review committee proceedings that investigate quality of care concerns are privileged and shielded from public view. The state requires minimal reporting from hospitals, which means that it makes it difficult for Texas mothers to select a safe place to deliver their babies. Reporting maternal deaths and other childbirth complications to a centralized database would help hold hospitals accountable and aid researchers in finding a way to improve the quality of care.

Providing women with care resources. It is sad that around one third of pregnant moms do not receive adequate prenatal care. OB/GYN experts recommend that women see a doctor as soon as they think they may be pregnant. In my experience, good prenatal care helps identify potential medical issues that are important to the health and well-being of the mother and baby. OB/GYN physicians perform ultrasounds, measurements, and lab work to make sure things are on track and look out for issues like gestational diabetes, fetal growth restriction, obesity, and preeclampsia, which require treatment before labor and delivery.

We are here to help

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured or even died because of poor medical, OB/GYN, labor and delivery, or hospital care, then the experienced medical malpractice attorneys at Painter Law Firm, in Houston, Texas, are here to help. Click here to send us a confidential email via our “Contact Us” form or call us at 281-580-8800.

All consultations are free, and, because we only represent clients on a contingency fee, you will owe us nothing unless we win your case. We handle cases in the Houston area and all over Texas. We are currently working on medical malpractice lawsuits in Houston, The Woodlands, Sugar Land, Conroe, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Bryan/College Station, and Waco.


Robert Painter is a medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits against hospitals, physicians, surgeons, anesthesiologists, and other healthcare providers. A member of the board of directors of the Houston Bar Association, he was honored, in 2018, by H Texas as one of Houston’s top lawyers. Also, in 2018, the Better Business Bureau recognized Painter Law Firm PLLC with its Award of Distinction.

Robert Painter

Robert Painter is a medical malpractice lawyer at Painter Law Firm PLLC.


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