Due to maternal mortality rates increasing in the U.S., I would like to gain a better sense of understanding of the factors that contribute to this current issue.
Maternal mortality is an issue that is known to occur within less developed countries. Many nurses and doctors assume that this no longer occurs within the United States because we are a well developed country, but the truth is that the U.S. contains the worst record for maternal mortality. Every year for every 100,000 live births a total of 26 mothers die, a total of 700 to 900 mothers every year. These mothers die from complications during pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum. Many nurses and doctors are unaware of maternal mortality occurring within their own hospitals.
Many believe that the cause of maternal mortality occurs due to a lack of access to medical resources and poor health habits. Although there are various factors that can affect a mother during pregnancy (lack of prenatal care, low income, and lack of health care) these factors are not the main cause of maternal deaths. There are numerous conditions that can cause death upon mothers. The most common conditions that cause deaths are hemorrhage, cardiovascular, and coronary conditions. Hemorrhage occurs when there’s a heavy uncontrollable discharge of blood from the blood vessels. While cardiovascular and coronary conditions are both caused due to heart complications. Coronary conditions and cardiovascular conditions both involve plaque building up in the arteries and preventing blood from flowing into the heart. About 12.7% of deaths are caused by these conditions.
Assuming that doctors/ nurses are well educated and prepared, one would think that identifying and treating these common conditions that cause maternal deaths would be basic textbook knowledge. However, the truth is that most nurses and doctors fail to recognize any symptoms that may lead to these threatening complications. Nurses and doctors lack the ability to identify the symptoms to these life threatening complications, such as breathing problems, painful swelling, heavy bleeding, and headaches. As nurses are unaware of how to identify threatening complications within mothers, they are unable to educate their patients on what symptoms they should be aware of.
Not only do doctors and nurses lack knowledge, but most hospitals are not prepared for worst case scenarios. Although hospitals contain various protocols for emergencies, most of them do not have settled responses for rare emergencies. Many who do contain the protocols for rare emergencies fail to practice them. It is less likely that smaller hospitals have protocols for main emergencies. Smaller hospitals are less likely to encounter these types of emergencies, but having protocols for these types of situations would help them prevent any other maternal deaths from occurring.
The lack of recognition, education, and standard protocols are the causes of increasing maternal mortality rates. For example, the story of Lauren Bloostein, a 33 year old neonatal nurse shows how hospitals fail. She had no complications during her pregnancy and had a successful delivery, but twenty hours late she was dead. Lauren did not died because her symptoms were not identified on time. Her death was caused due to preeclampsia condition, which occurs from high blood pressure during pregnancy or postpartum that leads to seizures and strokes. In countries like the United States that are highly developed, these conditions are highly treatable, but there is a lack of knowledge within hospitals to recognize these conditions. 60 % of the deaths that occur like Lauren’s are preventable, the key is to act quickly.
Currently in the US, New Jersey and Georgia are the two states with the most maternal deaths. Maternal death rates may be increasing because mothers in hospitals lack attention and care from their nurses. Often times during labor babies are the main focus. Nurses always spend time educating the mothers on how to take care of their newborns, but lack to educate mothers on how to care for themselves. Although mothers do receive written materials from the hospital to take home, that is not enough to inform them about threatening complications that they may encounter. There is only one hospital in the whole U.S. that has a program for “high risk moms-to-be,” awareness must be brought towards maternal mortality.
An investigation was done by NPR and ProPublica on maternal mortality that states that many doctors who specialized in the maternal-fetal medicine actually never spent any time in the labor-delivery unit. This has ultimately caused doctors to lack knowledge towards maternal complications. The lack of knowledge from doctors and nurses has caused an inability to prepare for maternal emergencies, which may be the main cause of why the United States’ is labeled as the country with the worst maternal mortality rates.
While looking for a topic to write about for my semester long project, I was drawn towards an article on maternal mortality. The article stated that nurses lack knowledge of health risks that mothers may encounter after childbirth. I thought that learning about the lack of knowledge of nurses would be interesting to learn more about, considering that I want to pursue a profession as a nurse. Learning more about the current issues occurring within maternal mortality will help inform me on what I must be aware of as I plan to become a prenatal nurse.
It’s important that attention is emphasized on maternal mortality within the US, in order to encourage nurses and doctors to become more informed on how they can cooperate in reducing maternal death rates. Analyzing this current issue will encourage hospitals to take more action towards helping prevent deaths, and perhaps this will encourage them to create programs and maternal care centers for mothers, which will help them become more informed on pregnancy complications.