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Maternal mortality in the US: We need to focus more on mothers

Parents planning a family rarely have as much excitement as when they first discover they are pregnant. The excitement often shifts to normal concerns like having a healthy pregnancy, making sure the baby is developing appropriately and creating a birth plan. 

That was true for 33-year-old neonatal intensive care nurse Lauren Bloomstein when she became pregnant. As a nurse working with babies, Lauren had more knowledge on the topic than most. But nothing could prepare her or her husband Larry for what was to come when she gave birth to her daughter.

Medical professionals put a high degree of focus on improving infant health and mortality rates during pregnancy, at birth and the months afterward. However, a recent NPR and Propublica article, reviewed the issue of maternal mortality in depth. What they found was a staggering increase in maternal mortality rates in the U.S. compared with that in other developed countries. 

The issue is illustrated by Lauren Bloomstein's story. She had carefully selected her obstetrician, whom she worked with, and the hospital where she was employed. She knew the doctors and nurses assisting her in the birth and didn't have any reason to question her care.

That is, until things went horribly wrong. Shortly after a fairly uneventful birth, Lauren started to feel ill. Her husband Larry, a doctor, became concerned as her symptoms worsened. The nurses and doctors attributed her condition to common issues experienced after giving birth - but nothing more serious than that. 

As her condition progressed, Larry sought out the advice of a colleague who stated that Lauren may be suffering from HELLP syndrome - which is a variant of pre-eclampsia. Both are life-threatening if not diagnosed and treated appropriately and frequently occur during pregnancy or postpartum.

When Larry brought the issue up to her health care providers, the HELLP diagnosis was not acknowledged. Eventually Lauren's situation deteriorated even more and finally the diagnosis was made, but by then it was too late. Less than a day after giving birth to her daughter, Lauren Bloomstein passed away.

What is most profoundly sad about Lauren's story is that her death was preventable. The maternal mortality rate in the U.S. is at an unacceptably higher rate than that of many developed countries. 

In the U.K., due to a higher than acceptable maternal mortality rate, the country did something about the issue. New procedures were developed and instituted on a countrywide basis, which focused on the health and well-being of the mother before, during and after giving birth. What resulted was a significant drop in their maternal mortality rate. 

In the U.S., there is no federal policy approach to dealing with this issue. Therefore, the states are left to regulate and implement policies. So far, the issue remains to be dealt with appropriately in many areas of the U.S.

If you or a loved one has suffered injury or death as a result of complications from birth, you may need to seek the advice of a medical malpractice attorney. Only when health providers and health systems are held accountable do circumstances improve for everyone, mothers included. 

 

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