Way more moms die having babies in the U.S. than in any other developed nation. Why?

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.

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.

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.

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June 26, 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Charter. Think of the Charter as the U.N.'s wedding vows, in which the institution solemnly promises to love and protect not one person, but the world. It's a union most of us can get behind, especially in light of recent history. We're less than seven months into 2020, and already it's established itself as a year of reckoning. The events of this year—ecological disaster, economic collapse, political division, racial injustice, and a pandemic—the complex ways those events feed into and amplify each other—have distressed and disoriented most of us, altering our very experience of time. Every passing month creaks under the weight of a decade's worth of history. Every quarantined day seems to bleed into the next.

But the U.N. was founded on the principles of peace, dignity, and equality (the exact opposite of the chaos, degradation, and inequality that seem to have become this year's ringing theme). Perhaps that's why, in its 75th year, the institution feels all the more precious and indispensable. When the U.N. proposed a "global conversation" in January 2020 (feels like thousands of years ago), many leapt to participate—200,000 within three months. The responses to surveys and polls, in addition to research mapping and media analysis, helped the U.N. pierce through the clamor—the roar of bushfire, the thunder of armed conflict, the ceaseless babble of talking heads—to actually hear what matters: our collective human voice.

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The lengths people will go to discredit a political figure—especially a Black female politician—is pretty astounding. Since Kamala Harris was announced as Joe Biden's running mate, we've seen "birther" claims that she wasn't really born in the U.S. (she was), alternating claims that she's too moderate or too radical (which can't both be true), and a claim apparently designed to be a "gotcha"—that her ancestor in Jamaica was a slave owner.

According to Politifact, the claim that Harris descends from a slave owners is likely true. In their rather lengthy fact check on her lineage, which has not revealed any definitive answers, they conclude, "It seems possible that Kamala Harris is as likely a descendant of a slave-owner as she is an enslaved person." But that doesn't mean what the folks who are using that potential descencency as a weapon seem to think it means.

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When I found out I was pregnant in October 2018, I had planned to keep the news a secret from family for a little while — but my phone seemed to have other ideas.

Within just a few hours of finding out the news, I was being bombarded with ads for baby gear, baby clothes and diapers on Facebook, Instagram and pretty much any other site I visited — be it my phone or on my computer.

Good thing my family wasn't looking over my shoulder while I was on my phone or my secret would have been ruined.

I'm certainly not alone in feeling like online ads can read your mind.

When I started asking around, it seemed like everyone had their own similar story: Brian Kelleher told me that when he and his wife met, they started getting ads for wedding rings and bridal shops within just a few weeks. Tech blogger Snezhina Piskov told me that she started getting ads for pocket projectors after discussing them in Messenger with her colleagues. Meanwhile Lauren Foley, a writer, told me she started getting ads for Happy Socks after seeing one of their shops when she got off the bus one day.

When online advertising seems to know us this well, it begs the question: are our phones listening to us?

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UPDATE/EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was successfully removed from Facebook thanks in part to this article from Annie Reneau and also thanks to readers like you who took action and demanded accountability from Facebook. We're sharing it again as an example of how we can all be part of positive and constructive change on social media. Don't let the trolls win!

Original story begins below:

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As we say in the viral stories world, there's viral and then there's viral. A post with 100K shares in a month would be considered super viral. A post with a millions shares—even over a long period of time—is nearly unheard of.

So the fact that a post about Irish slaves has been shared nearly a million times in just nine days is incredibly disheartening. Why? Because it's fake, fake, fake. And not in an "I don't like what this says so I'm going to call it fake" kind of way, but in a non-factual, already-debunked-by-real-historians kind of way.

As someone with a crapton of Irish ancestry, I find the perpetuation of the Irish slaves myth utterly embarrassing—especially since it's most often shared in an attempt to downplay the history of Black slavery in the U.S. If it were true, that kind of deflection would still be annoying. But pushing false history narratives to deny the reality of the impact of institutionalized, race-based chattel slavery is just gross.

And to be sure, this is false history. To begin with, the photo isn't even of Irish people at all. It's a photo of Belgian miners crammed into a mining elevator around the year 1900.

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Sometimes a boycott succeeds when it fails.

Although the general aim of a boycott is to hurt profits, there are times when the symbolism of a boycott gives birth to a constant, overt and irreversible new optic for a company to nurse.

When the boycott of Facebook began in June and reached its peak in July, it gathered thousands of brands who vocalized their dissatisfaction with the platform.

The boycott, under the hashtag #StopHateForProfit, was launched by civil rights groups. By July brands were fully behind removing their ad spending - resulting in a small financial dent for the social media juggernaut, but a forceful bludgeoning in the press.


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