NPR

For Every Woman Who Dies In Childbirth In The U.S., 70 More Come Close

More than 50,000 American women nearly die from childbirth every year, according to a CDC estimate. These catastrophic complications can come at a terrible cost emotionally, financially and medically.
Alicia Nichols holds her daughter Diana in her home in February. After the birth of Diana, Nichols suffered unusual postpartum blood loss that she feels was not taken seriously by her doctor. Source: Kayana Szymczak for NPR

Samantha Blackwell was working her way through a master's degree at Cleveland State University when she found out she was pregnant.

"I was 25, in really good health. I had been an athlete all my life. I threw shot put for my college, so I was in my prime," she says with a laugh.

Though it wasn't planned, Blackwell's pregnancy was embraced by her large and loving family and her boyfriend, who would soon become her husband. Her labor was quick, and she gave birth to a healthy baby boy.

Yet just days after she was discharged, Blackwell was back in the hospital, in a medically induced coma, fighting a runaway infection that left her hovering between life and death.

"It was like 'I fell asleep at that hospital and woke up the next day' kind of thing," she says. She was in a coma for more than a month.

Blackwell's story of reaching the brink of death is one that happens much too often, say researchers.

Over the past year, NPR and ProPublica have been investigating why American mothers die in childbirth at a far higher rate than in all other developed countries.

A mother giving birth in the U.S. is about three times as likely to die as a mother in Britain and Canada.

In the , another disturbing statistic emerged: For every American woman who who suffer "severe maternal morbidity" from childbirth each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A patient safety group, the Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health, came up with an even higher figure. After conducting an in-depth study of devastating complications in hospitals in four states, it put the nationwide number at around 80,000.

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