Maternal Mortality: An OBGYN Hospitalist’s Perspective

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The United States currently has the highest rate of maternal deaths in the developed world. In every other wealthy country (such as countries in Scandinavia) and even in less affluent ones, maternal mortality rates have been falling. But today, more American women are dying from pregnancy-related complications than any other developed country and that number is rising.


Maternal Mortality Is Rising in the U.S. As It Declines Elsewhere

Deaths per 100,000 live births


“Global, regional, and national levels of maternal mortality, 19902015: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015,” The Lancet. Only data for 1990, 2000 and 2015 was made available in the journal.

Source: The Lancet

Credit: Rob Weychert/ProPublica


The data is sobering. Of course, there are plenty of factors in the blame game. Poverty. Budgets. Understaffed labor and delivery units. Shortage of OBGYNs. Insufficient postpartum education. Rise of obesity, chronic illnesses, and complex medical histories. Prevalence of c-sections. New mothers are older than they used to be. Fragmented and complex health system.


But here’s the bottom line: many treatable complications are allowed to become deadly. Here’s how I see hospitalists helping to turn around this terrible trend in our country:


  • Hospitalists can be facilitators in developing checklists and scripts to help postpartum nurses educate mothers


  • Hospitalists can use simulation training to help staff recognize and treat life threatening complications such as postpartum hemorrhage and hypertensive crisis


  • Hospitalists can be a strong contributor to a labor and delivery unit that is structured, organized and standardized with their strong leadership skills


  • Implementing a hospitalist program in the labor and delivery unit prevents the “weekend effect” when more maternal deaths occur


Interested in learning more about how an OBGYN hospitalist program could help you and your organization? Please get in touch!


– Dr. Rob Olson


Connect with Dr. Olson on Twitter @DrRobOlson

Dr. Olson is the founder and principal of National OBGYN Hospitalist Consulting Group. Dr. Olson is a leading OBGYN Hospitalist and Entrepreneur who is passionate about continual improvements in safety and patient care, Dr. Olson is the founder and former president of the Society of OB/GYN Hospitalists, currently the largest organization providing support and opportunities for OBGYN Hospitalists in the United States.

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