The U.S. is at the forefront of medicine, developing new vaccines, drugs, and procedures that help us live long, healthy lives. But there’s one major issue: More American women die during childbirth—a relatively routine procedure—than in almost any other industrialized country.
What’s worse: That number rose from 12.4 deaths per 100,000 births in 1990 to more than 18 in 2013. In the same time frame, the U.K.’s rate fell from 10.4 to 6.1 deaths, Australia’s went from 7 to 4.8, France’s lowered from 15.6 to 8.8, and Spain’s dropped from 12.3 to 6.2.
It’s not totally clear why we’ve seen an uptick in maternal mortality rate in the U.S. over the last two decades, but experts point to a few factors. American women rarely die from emergency complications during childbirth (like hemorrhages). The real issue is existing medical problems. With growing rates of hypertension, diabetes, and obesity, women experience more complications during pregnancy. One thing experts say isn’t to blame? Having children later in life.
The good news is there’s a simple solution for women who are worried about their risk level: Focus on staying healthy.