Where are the safest places in the world to give birth?

Tracy Cassels from Evolutionary Parenting recently posted on new research on the current status of maternal mortality around the world.

Where would you rather give birth – in the USA or Albania?  Most of you would probably say the USA yet your chances of survival would then be lower.  Yes, you as a mother are more likely to die from childbirth-related problems in the USA than Albania.  

Do you find this surprising? Here is the research:

New research looking at maternal mortality is out* and the findings are not good for those in the American system.  In 1990, the USA was ranked 22 in maternal health and mortality.  This year, the USA ranks 60th after dropping from 50th in the last assessment.  In fact, the US is one of only 8 countries to have seen a rise in maternal morality, up from 17.6 in 2003 to 18.5 deaths/100,000 in 2013 (the other 7 were Afghanistan, Belize, El Salvador, Guinea-Bissau, Greece, Seychelles, and the South Sudan).  In 1987 that number was 7.2/100,00 […].

Canada and New Zealand have maternal mortality rates that are half of the USA.  The UK has one that is a third.  Australia’s is a quarter of the USA’s.  Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, Kuwait, Lebanon, Iran, and Serbia all have rates that are lower than that of the USA.

What can explain such high rates of maternal mortality? No, it’s not the rise in homebirth.

One of the main factors is a rise in certain diseases that make pregnancy riskier, like diabetes and hypertension.  There are also other heart and neurological diseases that are on the increase that necessitate higher-risk pregnancies.

This possible explanation leads Tracy to ask:

If most of these increases are due to increases in diseases, why are other similar, developed countries not showing the same problems?  How is all the medical technology in the world failing American mothers?  At this stage, it’s hard to know what parts actually work, but clearly the system taken together doesn’t.  Perhaps it’s the lack of integration, the lack of affordable care, or the focus on treatment instead of prevention.  Likely it’s a mix of all of it and more.


Oh – to answer the question of where you would be safest giving birth: Iceland with a maternal mortality rate of 2.4/100,000 (nearly 1/8 that of the USA).


Read the whole post here.



Image via Every Mother Counts

* Kassebaum NJ et al. Global, regional, and national levels and causes of maternal mortality during 1990-2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013.  The Lancet 2014; doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(14)60696-6.

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