We all live under the assumption that we live in the most advanced country in the world. Therefore, logic would lead us to also assume that we also live in a country where it is safe to give birth. But did anyone ever teach you the danger of assuming?
Here is the truth in plain, simple statistics.
Of developed countries, the United States has the HIGHEST mother mortality rate. There are 40 countries that have better MMR rates than we do. And this is despite the fact that we spend more than any other country on health care.
This rate has gone UP in the past 20 years. In fact, the MMR (ratio per 100,000 births) has doubled from 12 to 24 between 1990 and 2008.
The rates in most other developed countries, particularly Canada and Western Europe, are less than half of the United States MMR (Canada-6, France- 13, United Kingdom-10, Australia- 10, Sweden-5, Japan-12).
World Health Organization, Trends in Maternal Mortality
Why? There are a number of theories out there as to why, but the leading reasons are our high rate of C-section (and the things that lead to c-section, like induction, epidural, and other medical interventions), the lack of midwives in hospitals, and our lack of medical and emotional follow up after birth.
Why can't we do these things? Most of it has to do with the way our health care system is structured. Granted, the universal health care that is found in the U.K. and Canada isn't perfect (I doubt there is a "perfect" system). But there are major benefits. They are more efficient and utilize midwives to perform healthy births, saving doctors and medical interventions for when they are actually needed. And both countries provide post partum home visits, at least for first time mothers.
The key is to be aware of what makes you and your baby at higher risk. There are a number of factors such as smoking, drinking, and generally not taking care of yourself (but odds are good that if you are THAT mom, you wouldn't be reading this...) that raise likelihood of mother and baby mortality. But, as stated above, every unnecessary medical intervention raises the likelihood as well. People (and by people I mean doctors) like to talk about C-sections as if it were like getting your nails cut- simple, routine, and low risk. But C's are major surgery, with all the risks of major surgery.
So make an informed decision. Look into midwives- thankfully some hospitals are getting the idea and employing midwives for routine births. It's a step in the right direction.
The Safe Motherhood Quilt