By: Leah Howard
The increased rates of maternal mortality have been determined to be due to deaths such as hemorrhage, blood clots, and hypertension disease. In addition, substance use and abuse, mental illnesses, and partner violence may also play a role as these factors are known to have detrimental effects on pregnancy. In a study on pregnant women in Philadelphia, about half of pregnancy related deaths were due to homicide, suicide, or unintentional injury. Mental illness and substance use was present in many non-overdose related deaths and nearly half of the cases had unscheduled hospital visits within the month of their death, revealing that there were many opportunities to intervene.
Many of the current medical and public health efforts to alleviate the medical causes of maternal mortality, such as excessive bleeding and heart disease, but fail to focus on the societal pregnancy-associated deaths which are just as, if not more, important in the causes of U.S. maternal mortality. There are many who believe that there is opportunity for intervention by using “out-of-the-box” strategies such as screening and support for those who are deemed to be a part of the at-risk pregnant population which may have poor health outcomes. This approach might be the next step, since previous attempts to reduce maternal mortality have not been as successful as originally hoped.
1. WHO et al. Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2008. Geneva: WHO; 2010.