The recent deaths of Arizona’s State Treasurer Dean Martin’s wife and baby boy have stunned the Phoenix community, reminding us of the risks of childbirth. Typically, the possibility of death while giving birth is far from a new mother’s mind. At least here in the United States, where we have a relatively low maternal death rate. However, what many people may not realize is that this rate is actually on the rise.
Nearly 600 women in the US die in childbirth each year. Back in the 1980’s and 90’s, maternal mortality was at a steady rate of 7 to 8 deaths for every 100,000 live births. According to the CDC, this rate increased to 12 to13 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births in 2004. This rise of maternal deaths could correlate with the fact that more women are having children later in life, as well as the fact that there are more births by C-section which involve more risks.
Doctors don’t like to talk about losing patients, and the risk of dying while giving birth is an especially scary topic that is most often avoided. When Arizona State Treasurer Dean Martin publicly announced the death of his wife and newborn son just a couple of hours ago, he did not touch on the cause of their deaths. Instead, he mentioned that what had happened with his wife and son during the birth was a rare occurrence and that expectant women shouldn’t be worried. But with our country’s maternal death rate increasing, it would appear that we should be worried. And talking about it.
The loss of a mother in childbirth is tremendous, potentially impacting multiple generations of a family as well as the surrounding community. No matter what the national statistic is, 600 or fewer, we are still losing too many women. Especially when preventable. If we are willing to talk more about the reality of maternal death and to devote more resources to reviewing each death on a state level, we will be able to turn around the increasing maternal death rate and make motherhood much safer than it is today.