Portrait By Kiva Bay

Dax Murray

Book reviews, coding thoughts, feminist rants, and occasional cats.

Maternal Mortality, Doulas, and Midwives


Recently a study was published that found abortion to be safer than childbirth. Many on the choice side of the abortion debate are hailing this as a victory, pointing the fingers back at the prolife side of the debate, saying "We told you it was safer, can you please stop lying to women saying abortion is dangerous?"The problem is that no one should be celebrating this finding. The dark side of this study is that it finds childbirth to be less safe than a routine medical procedure done here in the United States. One in 2,100 women will die in the United States from childbirth or pregnancy. That is a horrible statistic. Especially since the comparable abortion number is 1 in 1,000,000 deaths for abortions performed before 8 weeks (when most are performed),  to 1 in 11,000 for abortions performed after 21 weeks (which is usually only done in cases of fetal or maternal indications).

In many European nations, the maternal mortality rate is 1 in 11,000ish depending on the country. There are many factors involved in why childbirth is safer in the Eurozone, than here in the US. For instance, lack of contraceptive access results in more unplanned pregnancies, which, in the US, half of all pregnancies are unplanned, with 70% of women of childbearing age being sexually active, but on 64% of those women using a reliable form of contraception. Statistically speaking, a woman with a wanted pregnancy is more likely to seek maternal and prenatal care earlier on in the pregnancy than the woman facing an unplanned pregnancy, if the latter seeks care at all (12% of women with planned pregnancies skipped prenatal care, while 22% of women with unplanned pregnancies failed to seek prenatal care). In Europe, comparably, I am finding the unintended pregnancy rate to be between 30 - 40 percent. Further, in Europe, paid maternity leave is a right, not a privilege. In some cases, paid maternity leave can be up to as long as a year, and with at least 80% pay during this time. If you haven't seen this already, I suggest you check out FOX correspondent Megyn Kelly on why maternity leave is important (note: this is probably one of the very few things in which I agree with Megyn Kelly). Additionally, as health care is universal and free in most of these countries, women who are poor have access to quality prenatal and maternal care, in which complications can be identified early, and treated and prepared for early.

Today, many births in the United States happen in hospitals, and are actually the biggest money makers for those hospitals, with unnecessary c-sections accounting for a lot of that money. C-sections are often done for the doctors convenience, not for the patients safety or health. A doctor often doesn't want to be sitting around for 19 hours while a woman naturally dilates and goes into labor. 1 in 3 women deliver by c-section in the United States, and a woman is more likely to die from a c-section than from a vaginal birth. C-sections also create risks for placenta previa and placenta accreta in future pregnancies that could also cause death.

I have recently gotten involved in the birth activist community, and am thrilled to be part of the revolution. Birth is a natural thing that is medicalized past the point of recognition. Women's bodies know what to do. We were giving birth outside of hospitals for ages. The midwives and doulas of today are trying to make sure that birth is a holistic and safe procedure. A lot of complications in the United States are from introducing too much unnecessary medicine or technology into the birthing process.

We could reduce the risk of maternal mortality by following the doula and midwife standards of care into childbirth, making sure that women who are pregnant and choose to carry to term have access to prenatal care, support systems, and information on safe birthing and pregnancy practices, by reducing the number of unintended pregnancies by increasing access to affordable contraceptives and birth control, while also increasing sexual health education, and, of course, making these things affordable. A woman's birthing experience should never depend on the size of her wallet.