Bringing Forth Life at the Brink of Death

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”  (John 15:13)

There are two groups of people who are commemorated during May that exemplify the above scripture. May 14 is Mother’s Day, a time when we celebrate the women who risked their lives to bring us into the world — and the last Monday of the month is Memorial Day when we honor our fallen heroes who fought the good fight and made the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf.

But this is about mothers, whose love and guidance honed us into the people of God we are today. Although we don’t think about it much anymore with the advent of modern medicine, childbirth places the mother’s life at risk for any number of reasons. The United Nations Population Fund estimated that 289,000 women died of pregnancy or childbirth related causes in 2013.

Certainly, countries with better health care systems have fewer women dying in childbirth, but even in the United States the maternal death rate averaged 18.5 deaths per 100,000 live births, with some 800 maternal deaths  reported in 2013, a rate higher than the 9.1 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births during the years 1979–1986. For some reason, or reasons, which I will explain, the rate rose rapidly to 14 per 100,000 in 2000 to 17.8 per 100,000 in 2009 and even more today.

While we think ourselves as advanced, some of that  advancement is killing our mothers. Think about this. According to the World Health Organization, pregnancy related deaths have declined by 45 percent to just 210 per 100,000 live births worldwide, but there are several  nations that have better statistics than the U.S., nations you would not expect. Uruguay, Lebanon, Libya, Kazakhstan, Chile, Albania, Azerbaijan, Russia and Thailand had better rates than the U.S. in 2013. And there were about 60,000 near misses in the U.S.

How can a nation that has the highest per capita spending on maternal health care have more women die from pregnancy related causes than Poland or Austria? Priya Agrawal, obstetrician and director of Merck for Mothers, told Annalisa Merelli, writing for Quartz, that there are three leading causes of maternal death in the U.S.:

  1. Postpartum hemorrhage (heavy bleeding after giving birth)
  2. Preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy)
  3. Complications arising from pre-existing health conditions Agrawal said, “The  women getting pregnant are increasingly less healthy. This year, one in five women (in the U.S.) who become pregnant are obese. Then there’s diabetes and hypertension.”

This is a critical issue for the African-American community. Black American women are over four times more likely to die of pregnancy-related causes than white women.

And one final statistic. Infant mortality rates are higher where maternal death rates are higher, meaning, even if the child survives, its chances of living without the love and care of its mother are slim.

So what can today’s mothers do to make sure they survive and their child is healthy?

  • Get early prenatal care
  • Watch what you eat
  • Take prenatal vitamins
  • Exercise regularly
  • Rest
  • No alcohol
  • No illicit drugs
  • No smoking
  • Cut back on caffeine
  • Eliminate environmental dangers
  • See your dentist
  • Take care of your emotional health

If you’re an expectant mother and need help, call your deacon. If you don’t know who your deacon is, calledthe the FBBC office. Your deacon will hook you up with experienced mothers who have been through the drill and can help you stay healthy and focused on one of God’s greatest gifts.

Written by Charles E. Richardson