The US has highest maternal death rate in the developed world. Many US hospitals are not following the best practices for the delivery of babies.
Thousands of women suffer life-altering injuries or die during childbirth because US hospitals and medical workers skip safety practices that are known to prevent problems. Doctors and nurses should be weighing bloody pads to track blood loss so they recognize danger sooner. They should be giving medication within an hour of spotting dangerously high blood pressure to fend off strokes.
One exception in the U.S.: California, where safety experts and hospitals worked together to implement practices that are now endorsed by leading medical societies as the gold standard of care. Statewide, California’s maternal death rate has fallen by half, while deaths rose across most of the country.
Despite widespread recognition that the California safety measures save lives, hospitals elsewhere have been slow to use them.
USA TODAY obtained more than a half-million pages of internal hospital quality records and examined the cases of more than 150 women whose deliveries went terribly wrong.
Each year, more than 50,000 US women who are giving birth are severely injured. About 700 mothers die. The best estimates say that half of these deaths could be prevented and half the injuries reduced or eliminated with better care.
At dozens of hospitals in New York, Pennsylvania and the Carolinas fewer than half of maternity patients were promptly treated for dangerous blood pressure that put them at risk of stroke. At some of those hospitals, less than 15% of mothers in peril got recommended treatments.
The lack of attention happens at hospitals big and small, from tiny community delivery units to major birthing centers that tout state-of-the art technology and training.