Despite the United Nations Millennium Development Goal of reducing the rate of maternal death by 75% by 2015, the maternal death rate has risen alarmingly over the past several years across the United States. This is according to new research published in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

As described by the World Health Organization, here is what maternal death means:

Maternal death is the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the duration and site of the pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management but not from accidental or incidental causes.”

Texas Sees the Worst of It

The most alarming rise came from Texas, where the death rate almost doubled between 2010 and 2012. Although causation cannot be deduced, there could be a strong correlation with the women’s health cuts. In 2010, 72 women died from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth in the state. In 2012, the number jumped to 142. From 2000 to 2014, the study states that the maternal deaths in Texas have risen by as much as 27%. [1]

Texas has recently slashed healthcare budgets for women, and have closed all Planned Parenthood clinics, regardless of whether or not they offered abortion services to their clients. Abortion controversy aside, some argue that this is worth noting because Planned Parenthood also provides cancer screenings, birth control, and other services to women who may not otherwise be able to afford them.

Additionally, Texas slashed $73.6 million from their family planning budget of $111.5 million, a reduction of nearly two-thirds. Due to the cut in funding, 80 or so family planning clinics in the state had to shut their doors. Those remaining are now only able to service about half of their low-income clients due to restricted funds.

Zika may be an Issue, Too

The study was coincidentally released just as scientists speculated whether or not the Zika virus will make its way to the state. They fear it will, which will cause even more problems due to the fact that Zika is tied to birth defects.

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Many women infected with Zika give birth to babies who have microcephaly, a condition in which the child’s head never fully develops. This results in not only cosmetic issues, but can also result in severe cognitive and physical impairment. Some children may never develop beyond that of an infant due to the condition.

The slashed funding and increased risk for Zika is certainly concerning for the state, however, Texas isn’t the only place where the problem is growing. The study shows that while Texas may be extreme in its dramatic rise, all states are seeing an increase in maternal deaths. California is the only state in the country where maternal deaths have decreased.

“Despite the United Nations Millennium Development Goal for a 75% reduction in maternal mortality by 2015, the estimated maternal mortality rate for 48 states and Washington, DC, increased from 2000 to 2014; the international trend was in the opposite direction. There is a need to redouble efforts to prevent maternal deaths and improve maternity care for the 4 million U.S. women giving birth each year,” the research concluded.

According to the study, the US is the only developed country to see an increase in maternal deaths between 1993 and 2013. And while 99% of deaths from childbirth and complications occur in third world countries, researchers say that America’s statistics are alarmingly disproportionate. The only other countries to see an increase were Afghanistan, Botswana, and Chad. [2]

“There is sadly no magic bullet that explains what is behind the high levels of maternal mortality in the United States.  It’s a combination of factors that speak to the systemic problems of failing to provide affordable, accessible, quality health services to all women in the United States,” said Rachel Ward, managing director of research at Amnesty International US.

Sources:

[1] The Guardian

[2] Huffington Post

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About Anna Scanlon:
Anna Scanlon is an author of YA and historical fiction and a PhD student at the University of Leicester where she is finishing her degree in modern history.