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How does U.S. maternal mortality compare internationally?

Many people are accustomed to thinking that the medical care in the United States is the best in the world. While there are excellent health care facilities in this country, there are still many health issues that remain problematic for American residents. Maternal death has been identified as one of the areas in which U.S. healthcare trails far behind expectations. 

According to an Amnesty International report, the maternal mortality rate in the U.S. is worse than it is in 49 other countries. This is in spite of the fact that more money is spent toward health care in America than anywhere else in the world. The report also notes that these maternal mortality numbers are likely underestimated.

The Amnesty International report states that there is some evidence tying cesarean section births to maternal mortality. In the U.S., the national average for C-sections reached a historic high of 32.9 percent in 2009. This figure is more than twice as high as the 5 to 15 percent rate recommended by the United Nations World Health Organization. In addition, according to 2010 data, states with a C-section average of higher than 33 percent had a greater risk of maternal death. These states’ rate of maternal death was 21 percent higher than states with C-section rates of less than 33 percent.

The problem of maternal death in the U.S. has also been tied to pregnant women’s income levels. Those who reside in lower-income areas have been found to be at twice the risk of maternal mortality as high income women. 

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