Many first-time new mothers assume that once they’ve given birth and certainly once they’re released from the hospital, they no longer have to worry about any pregnancy-related medical complications. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that new mothers can be in more danger in their baby’s first year than they were during pregnancy or childbirth.
Should maternal mortality rates encompass the baby’s first year?
This is causing some in the medical profession to extend the term “maternal mortality” beyond the initial weeks after childbirth. The CDC found that 30% of pregnancy-related maternal deaths occurred between when the baby was six weeks and one year old.
These numbers have led doctors to call for greater watchfulness and care for new mothers in that first year – particularly for older new mothers and others with pre-existing medical conditions exacerbated by pregnancy and childbirth, like hypertension and diabetes. They’re also being advised to see new moms no later than three weeks after birth rather than six.
One medical school professor says, “Our approach to birth has been that the baby is the candy and the mom’s the wrapper, and once the baby is out of the wrapper we cast it aside. We need to recognize that the wrapper is a person — moms are getting really sick and dying.”
Physical and mental health issues are behind these deaths
In addition to hypertension, which can lead to strokes, some women suffer heart failure. Doctors are increasingly aware of the amount of stress that pregnancy and childbirth place on the heart. Others suffer fatal hemorrhages or blood clots.
Also included in these deaths are suicides and fatal drug overdoses. Much more is known about postpartum depression than in previous generations. However, according to the CDC, over a third of pregnancy-related deaths among white women are caused by mental health conditions.
Lack of affordable health care is a big issue
Certainly, the lack of medical care, the unaffordability of it and just plain discrimination all heighten maternal mortality rates for women of color and for poorer women. Their deaths are more likely to be caused by physical health issues.
If you suffered harm or lost a loved one because a doctor failed in their duty of care, it’s crucial to determine what your legal options are. Having experienced guidance can help you seek some justice and compensation.