We Need To Do More To Help Mothers In America

With Mother’s Day here, it seems appropriate to look at how America’s mothers are doing. And sad to say it isn’t good, America is “most dangerous affluent country in which to give birth” with over 60% of deaths being preventable according to the CDC Foundation.

Deaths aren’t the only thing, there are other medical conditions as well, some of which can be a lifelong struggle to cope with, so what is going on? “The reasons include striking declines in the health of women giving birth and inequities in access to insurance and maternity care... Medicaid, which pays for half of all U.S. births, covers many mothers only up to two months past delivery. As a result, for low-income women, pre-existing conditions that imperiled one delivery may go unseen and untreated until the next pregnancy.”

The combination of poor or less accessible healthcare, plus an increase in needing healthcare presents a double whammy of poor effects, and a vicious cycle of mother’s not getting the help they need.

It is also important to note, “what some experts have dubbed “delay and denial” — the failure of doctors and nurses to recognize a woman’s distress signals and other worrisome symptoms, both during childbirth and the often risky period that follows.” This is a dangerous trend. It reminds me of the story of doctors learning how to break bad news.

At one point doctors wouldn’t even tell patients about a terminal diagnosis. But with the pioneering of Rob Buckman, with some help from Monty Python (seriously listen to the linked podcast it’s an amazing story) doctors learned how to break bad news, and it starts with listening and empathizing. Without empathizing with patients, and listening to them, doctors are missing important details about their patient's conditions which are leading to serious health implications.

That’s not everything though.

Incredibly important to understand is the experience of mothers and their babies who are people of color. From one New York Times Story, "Black infants in America are now more than twice as likely to die as white infants — 11.3 per 1,000 black babies, compared with 4.9 per 1,000 white babies, according to the most recent government data — a racial disparity that is actually wider than in 1850, 15 years before the end of slavery, when most black women were considered chattel. In one year, that racial gap adds up to more than 4,000 lost black babies.

Education and income offer little protection. In fact, a black woman with an advanced degree is more likely to lose her baby than a white woman with less than an eighth-grade education.”

So what is the solution? For one thing an increase in healthcare available. This can look like doula services which there is evidence has been helping women of color, also more accessible healthcare, such as a Medicare for all. Also, the medical professions need to do a better job at listening to our mothers, in fact, we all probably could do a better job at listening to our mothers.

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