The maternal mortality rate in California has tripled in just 8 years. While rare events, maternal mortality is one the rise, and is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. For every death, there is an estimated 50-70 'near-miss' events, which are extremely costly in dollars but also in social and emotional impacts to the woman and her family. Racial disparities in this area are the largest of any public health issue -- African American women are 3-4 times more likely to die from childbirth related causes, yet are not at greater risk prenatally for these conditions: preeclampsia, eclampsia, abruptio placnetae, placenta previa and postpartum hemorrhage (see Tucker et al AJPH 2007).
The US has reached an historically high rate of cesarean section -- over 31%, and the mortality and morbidity rates have increased alongside this. Correlation is not causation but we have to seriously look at the types of interventions becoming routine in birth, and work to reduce non-medically necessary ones.
California is now conducting a statewide review of all pregnancy-related deaths, you can find more information at www.cmqcc.org.