The maternal death rate has dramatically decreased in recent decades worldwide. But in the U.S., it has risen more than 26%.

When people think of women dying during childbirth, they don't usually think of the United States. But according to a study published in 2016 in Obstetrics and Gynecology, the U.S. saw a 26.6% increase in pregnancy and childbirth-related deaths for women from 2000 to 2014. That's a sharp contrast to other developed nations — and even much of the developing world — where maternal death rates have plummeted.

The U.S. is the only developed country where maternal death rates have been rising. Photo via Jean-Sebastien Evrard/Getty Images.


The U.S. is one of only 13 countries where the maternal death rate is worse now than it was 25 years ago, according to journalist and professor Linda Villarosa, who has studied and written extensively about maternal mortality.

To put it bluntly: That's abysmal.

The U.S. is one of the world's wealthiest nations and spends the most on health care, which makes those statistics even worse.

As the only economically advanced nation not to guarantee health care to its citizens, perhaps it's not surprising that more moms die here than in other developed countries. Seems like a pretty simple equation really.

[rebelmouse-image 19534719 dam="1" original_size="600x428" caption="Image via Statista." expand=1]Image via Statista.

However, people in the U.S. spend an awful lot of money on health care to have that kind of outcome. In fact, Americans spend more per person than any other country — and not because they go to the doctor more. In the U.S., we use doctors less and are hospitalized less often than people in other countries yet we pay far more for our care. We pay more to birth babies here too — and yet the maternal outcomes are an embarrassment.

Maternal mortality rates in the U.S. are especially high for black women.

Part of why the maternal mortality rate is higher than expected is due to racial disparities. For example, black women in the U.S. are three to four times as likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women. And that's not purely an economic issue; even wealthy black women have higher rates of maternal mortality than white women.

[rebelmouse-image 19534720 dam="1" original_size="612x792" caption="Infographic via Maternal Health Task Force." expand=1]Infographic via Maternal Health Task Force.

Why is that? According to Villarosa, "an inescapable atmosphere of societal and systemic racism can create a kind of toxic physiological stress, resulting in conditions — including hypertension and pre-eclampsia — that lead directly to higher rates of infant and maternal death" for black women. Combine that with studies showing implicit racial bias in health care — such as dismissing legitimate concerns and symptoms voiced by black mothers — and it appears that much of the maternal mortality problem comes down to the effects of racism.

The good news: Some states have dramatically reversed those numbers.

While the statistics are depressing, there is hope — even within our current system. Some states have tackled this issue by forming Maternal Mortality Review Committees (MMRCs), which review every maternal death to determine cause and assess whether it could have been prevented. Data from these committees have shown that more than half of maternal deaths are preventable.

Image via Eric Feferburg/Getty Images.

California shows how successful MMRCs can be at saving lives. California formed its MMRC in 2006 when maternal deaths in the state were on the rise. As they discovered the most common, preventable reasons moms were dying, they created interventions to specifically address them. Since then, California has reduced its maternal mortality rate by more than 55% — at 4.5 per 100,000 live births, it is now far lower than the national average.

There's no reason the U.S. maternal mortality rate should keep climbing. While we can't save every mother's life, we can and should do all we can to try.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

Actions speak far louder than words.

It never fails. After a tragic mass shooting, social media is filled with posts offering thoughts and prayers. Politicians give long-winded speeches on the chamber floor or at press conferences asking Americans to do the thing they’ve been repeatedly trained to do after tragedy: offer heartfelt thoughts and prayers. When no real solution or plan of action is put forth to stop these senseless incidents from occurring so frequently in a country that considers itself a world leader, one has to wonder when we will be honest with ourselves about that very intangible automatic phrase.

Comedian Anthony Jeselnik brilliantly summed up what "thoughts and prayers" truly mean. In a 1.5-minute clip, Jeselnik talks about victims' priorities being that of survival and not wondering if they’re trending at that moment. The crowd laughs as he mimics the actions of well-meaning social media users offering thoughts and prayers after another mass shooting. He goes on to explain how the act of performatively offering thoughts and prayers to victims and their families really pulls the focus onto the author of the social media post and away from the event. In the short clip he expertly expresses how being performative on social media doesn’t typically equate to action that will help victims or enact long-term change.

Of course, this isn’t to say that thoughts and prayers aren’t welcomed or shouldn’t be shared. According to Rabbi Jack Moline "prayer without action is just noise." In a world where mass shootings are so common that a video clip from 2015 is still relevant, it's clear that more than thoughts and prayers are needed. It's important to examine what you’re doing outside of offering thoughts and prayers on social media. In another several years, hopefully this video clip won’t be as relevant, but at this rate it’s hard to see it any differently.

Moricz was banned from speaking up about LGBTQ topics. He found a brilliant workaround.

Senior class president Zander Moricz was given a fair warning: If he used his graduation speech to criticize the “Don’t Say Gay” law, then his microphone would be shut off immediately.

Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”

However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.

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