New numbers released by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation show alarming increases in the maternal death rate for American women. While most nations saw improvements in the survival of pregnant women and new mothers, in the United States the situation has gotten significantly worse. The maternal death rate is three times higher in America than it is in Canada; the US, for all its wealth, lags behind such poor nations as Vietnam, Iran and Romania.
What accounts for this tragic trend? The problem isn’t bad medical care, analysts say, since most maternal deaths involve heart disease, diabetes and other chronic problems linked strongly to obesity. Among poor women of color, obesity is particularly acute and the death rate for expectant mothers reflects that devastating problem.
The need for healthier food choices and regular exercise isn’t just a matter of health and success; for expectant mothers in the United States, it is increasingly a matter of survival.