In the early 20th century, nearly 1 percent of live childbirths resulted in complications which led to the death of the mother. Advances in medical technology and knowledge in hospitals in Tennessee and across the U.S. lowered the rate in 1987 to less than eight deaths per 100,000 births.
By 2013, though, the maternal mortality rate had risen to 18.5 deaths per 100,000 births. In attempts to explain the rising maternal mortality numbers, experts have offered opinions ranging from the rising average age of mothers to new better methods of data collection, from poorer physical health at childbirth to the increased prevalence of cesarian sections.
California, though, has bucked the trend. In 2010, the state introduced a number of measures related to safety and oversight, specifically focused on reducing fatal incidents of preeclampsia and hemorrhage, the two most common preventable causes of maternal death. After the introduction of the measures, the state's maternal mortality rate dropped from nearly 17 to just more than 6 per 100,000 births. Other governments and organizations have jointly introduced plans to reduce fatal incidents of severe hypertension, venous thromboembolism and obstetric hemorrhage.
The mortality rate may not tell the whole story though. An official at the Health Resources and Services Administration said that for every pregnancy-related death that occurs, there are approximately 75 women who experience kidney failure, heart attack, profuse bleeding or another potentially fatal emergency.
In cases where a birth injury or pregnancy-related death occurs due to a preventable cause, the injured parties may have valid medical malpractice claims. An attorney with experience in these matters may be able to review the relevant hospital records and obtain expert options when attempting to demonstrate a failure of a health care practitioner or facility to provide the requisite standard of care.