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US the 'Worst Place in the World' to Give Birth: USA Today Investigation

Half of the 700 deaths that happen each year could be prevented with better care, the investigation found

A mom holds her newborn

"It's a failure at all levels, at national organization levels and at the local hospital leadership levels as well," said Dr. Steven Clark, a leading childbirth safety expert. (Photo: steve_h/flickr/cc)

A new USA Today investigation offers a searing indictment of maternal care in the United States, and says the country "is the most dangerous place in the developed world to give birth."

"Deadly Deliveries," the result of a four-year investigation, references federal data showing that more than 50,000 women are "severely injured" and roughly 700 die during childbirth each year. Perhaps even more staggering is that "half of these deaths could be prevented and half the injuries reduced or eliminated with better care," the investigation found.

The findings, based on interviews with women and a trove of internal hospital records, "reveal a stunning lack of attention to safety recommendations and widespread failure to protect new mothers."

Such failures often stem from inadequate or delayed responses to hemorrhages and dangerously high blood pressure.

A disturbing trend noted in the report: from 1990 to 2015, in most developed nations the number of maternal deaths per 100,000 births was steady or dropped. Not so in the U.S., where the figure soared. In Germany, France, Japan, England, and Canada the number had fallen to below 10 in the time frame. In the U.S., meanwhile, the figured soared to 26.4.

California, though, is an exception. The state's maternal death rate fell by half—a drop attributed to it adopting "the gold standard" of safety measures.

Looking at the overall picture in the U.S., though, "it's a failure at all levels, at national organization levels and at the local hospital leadership levels as well," Dr. Steven Clark, a leading childbirth safety expert and a professor at Baylor College of Medicine, said to USA Today.

One of the investigative reporters, Alison Young, talked with "CBS This Morning" about the report:

The investigation follows a related analysis out late last year by ProPublica. Affirming previous studies, its analysis found "that women who hemorrhage at disproportionately black-serving hospitals are far more likely to wind up with severe complications, from hysterectomies, which are more directly related to hemorrhage, to pulmonary embolisms, which can be indirectly related. When we looked at data for only the most healthy women, and for white women at black-serving hospitals, the pattern persisted."

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