Of eleven of the wealthiest countries on the planet, the United States has the highest maternal mortality rate and, relatively speaking, an undersupply of maternity care providers, especially midwives, an issue brief from the Commonwealth Fund finds. Based on data from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the U.S., the brief, Maternal Mortality and Maternity Care in the United States Compared to 10 Other Developed Countries, found that the U.S. maternal mortality rate of 17.4 deaths per hundred thousand live births is double that of France, which, at 8.7 per hundred thousand live births, has the second highest rate. According to the data, 31 percent of maternal deaths in the U.S. occur during pregnancy, 17 percent occur on the day of delivery, and 52 percent occur postpartum. The brief also notes that the number of obstetrician-gynecologists and midwives is lowest in Canada (eight ob-gyns and four midwives per thousand live births) and the U.S. (eleven ob-gyns and four midwives), and that whereas maternity care in most countries is integrated into the primary care system, midwife services are not uniformly covered by health insurance in the U.S., which is also the only country that does not guarantee access to postpartum home visits from a midwife or nurse or provide paid maternity leave.
(Photo credit: Commonwealth Fund)