With my first pregnancy, I bought every book on prenatal care I could find. I ate well, I gave up sushi and soft cheese, and I attended Lamaze classes regularly. Educating myself, I became convinced I had achieved expert status on the subject of childbirth prior to the actual event. However, as my due date came and went without a baby in sight, I suddenly found myself scrambling for information and becoming incredibly stressed as the words ‘potential emergency Caesarean’ rebounded off the hospital walls. I had fabulous health care, I was fit, had a wonderful doctor whom I trusted, a supportive spouse, and a nearby parent. All of these factors led to a fairly easy (relatively speaking) labour, but if even one of those pillars of support hadn’t been there or had wavered during crisis moments… who’s to say what the outcome would’ve been. I’m all too aware that there are many women without such support, and they suffer needlessly because of it. Reading this article from The New York Times about the difference in the maternal mortality rate in Chelsea versus the Bronx, reminds me of how the simplest of social policy changes and education outreach programs can give support to women and potentially save their lives.
More mothers die during pregnancy or soon after in New York than in almost every other state, and according to reports released on Friday by the New York Academy of Medicine and the city’s health department, social factors like poverty, obesity and lack of insurance may be responsible.
While the total number of maternal deaths are small — an average of about 40 a year across the state — city health officials said their analysis showed that maternal mortality was being driven by environmental factors like poor nutrition that could be changed through public policy.
New York City’s analysis, billed as one of the most sophisticated looks at maternal mortality in the country, studied 161 women who died of pregnancy-related causes in the city from 2001 to 2005.
It found that 49 percent of the women who died were obese. Black women, who were more likely to be obese, were seven times as likely to die in pregnancy as white women. Hispanic and Asian women were twice as likely to die as white women.
The death rate was highest in the Bronx and Brooklyn, which have large poor and minority populations. The neighborhoods with the highest death rates were Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights in Brooklyn and Jamaica in Queens. Those with the lowest death rates — actually zero — were Chelsea and Greenwich Village in Manhattan, Bensonhurst in Brooklyn and Flushing in Queens.
Women without health insurance — who may receive less preventive care — were four times as likely to die as women with such coverage, but women covered by Medicaid, the government insurance program for the poor, fared as well as women with private insurance, the city found.
I’d also like to note this article doesn’t mention ‘unsafe abortion’.by