09.Feb.2010 Sad but expected: more women are dying in childbirth

Over the last several days I have received many, many copies of the following article. Basically, the medical establishement has finally noticed that many more women are dying in childbirth than should be. In fact the title of the article is It’s now more dangerous to give birth in California than it is in Kuwait or Bosnia.


The report has been ready for months but has been held back from publication because the news is so very dire. With news like this, the medical establishment wanted to examine the results in detail. The most common explanations from OBs is that more women are dying because more women are fat. Well, we should have expected them to blame women. But, in fact, the research does not support this explanation. Increases in the rate of obesity can not account for the huge increase in maternal deaths.

The next obvisous villain was science itself.  It is not that more women are dying, it’s that we count maternal deaths more accurately. Again, no go. Improvements in reporting  cannot account for the huge increase in maternal deaths.

If we can’t blame women and we can’t blame science, how do we account for the tragic rise in the number of women dying in childbirth? The researchers clearly cite the increase in medical management of births with inductions, augmentations, and in particular C-sections. Forcing a biological process to fit into shift schedules or profit/loss margins could only cause trouble. I have long felt that medical births take the mother and baby to the brink of disaster only to pull them back again at the last moment.

This study confirms what every midwife has been thinking for this last decade. “For every maternal death, there are 10 misses; for every near miss there are 10 severe morbidity cases (such as hysterectomy, hemorrhage, or infection), and for every severe morbidty case, there is another 10 morbidity cases related to childbirth.” Catherine Camacho, Deputy Director of California Center for Family Health.

The maternal death rate is only the tip of the iceberg — with all the near-misses, stressed babies, compromised bonding, etc. conceled below the view. Afterall, we are supposed to believe that the ends justifies the means: you have a healthy baby, why complain?

Complain we should. How children are born and how women are treated in labor has profound consequency. This report documents that we ignore women and biology at everyone’s peril.

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