The U.S. is the most dangerous country in the developed world for a mother to give birth, a report has highlighted. 

An investigation by USA Today dug beneath the fact that 50,000 women are “severely injured” during childbirth, and around 700 mothers die. Half of these deaths could have been prevented, as could the injuries, if correct safety procedures were followed, according to the report. 

Most women give birth with no issue. However, “The Global Burden of Disease 2015 Maternal Mortality” study published in The Lancet journal cited in the “Deadly Deliveries” report lays bare the startling disparity between the U.S. and other developed nations.

Between 1990 to 2015, the number of maternal deaths per 100,000 births in most developed nations—including Germany, France Japan, England, and Canada—fell or plateaued to below around 10. But in the U.S. the figure spiked to 26.4.

baby-mother-stock Maternal mortality rates have plateaued or dropped in most developed nations – but it has risen in the U.S. Getty Images

The conclusion was the result of a four-year investigation which involved assessing more than half a million pages of internal hospital quality records, including over 150 cases of botched deliveries.

It revealed the leading causes of death in the U.S. are hemorrhage and severe hypertension, where blood pressure and blood loss levels must be closely monitored. And medical professionals too often “eye-ball” instead of measure blood loss levels, according to USA Today.

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Analysis of records on federally funded quality programs on dozens of hospitals in New York, Pennsylvania and the Carolinas indicated fewer than half of maternity patients were treated for blood pressure high enough they could experience stroke. And less than 15 percent of mothers in danger received recommended treatments

The investigation found a lack of care at hospitals across the country, at a range of hospitals.

In the case of Texas woman, she almost bled to death and her heart stopped during labor. She later had a hysterectomy and requires a kidney transplant due to her injuries. 

Read more: Five healthy habits for mothers than could cut their child’s riskl of obesity: Harvard Study

Alison Young, the investigative journalist behind the report, told CBS This Morning: “We’re not just talking about the women who die, we’re talking about 50,000 U.S. women who are suffering life-altering harms.”

Young called on clinicians to prioritize the safety of pregnant women, and for hospitals and practices to introduce the Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health Programs safety checklists.

The example of California, where the maternal mortality rate has halved thanks to the adoption of safety measures, shows how the situation can be transformed. 

The USA Today report mirrors the findings of an NPR and ProPublica investigation on maternal mortality in the U.S. which concluded a “hodgepodge” of hospital protocols for dealing with potentially deadly but easily treatable complications is putting women in danger. Hospitals were also found to be unprepared for maternal emergencies.  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists addresses the disparity in maternal mortality between the U.S. and other developed nations on its website where it also points to the racial disparities in maternal mortality. Black women, for instance, are three to four times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related complication than non-Hispanic white women.

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