Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

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)

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 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."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
We need your help.

Support progressive journalism.

Common Dreams is not your average news site. We don't survive on clicks or advertising dollars. We rely entirely on your support. And without it, our independent progressive journalism simply wouldn’t exist. Every gift of every amount matters.

Join the fight and support our common dreams today.

As Iran Elects New President, Experts Urge Biden to Rejoin Nuclear Deal, Lift Sanctions

"The Biden administration must remain resolute and seek a break from the disastrous conditions that helped contribute to this result."

Brett Wilkins, staff writer ·


UN General Assembly Condemns Myanmar Junta Violence, Urges Arms Embargo

Member nations voted 119-1 in favor of the resolution, which also calls for a return to the country's fragile democracy.

Brett Wilkins, staff writer ·


Dems Introduce Abolition Amendment to Scrap Constitution's 'Slavery Clause'

"The loophole in our Constitution's ban on slavery not only allowed slavery to continue, but launched an era of discrimination and mass incarceration that continues to this day," said Sen. Jeff Merkley.

Julia Conley, staff writer ·


'Surreal' and 'Distressing': Climate Experts' Predictions Come True With US Heatwave

"The current heatwave and drought leave no doubt, we are living the dangerous effects of the climate crisis."

Jessica Corbett, staff writer ·


94% of Americans Oppose Big Pharma's Control of Global Covid-19 Vaccine Doses: Poll

Half of U.S. adults also consider it unacceptable that pharmaceutical corporations, which monopolized dose production, have profited substantially from vaccines developed using public funding.

Kenny Stancil, staff writer ·