This year ProPublica and NPR are investigating why, as maternal mortality has declined around the world, U.S. rates of maternal mortality are on the rise. The ongoing Lost Mothers series by ProPublica reporters Nina Martin and Adriana Gallardo, and NPR special correspondent Renee Montagne, shines a spotlight on the reasons behind the United States’ standing as having the highest rate of mothers dying during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum of any affluent country.
One factor that their reporting identified is a lack of awareness and transparency. Impacted families are conditioned to see maternal deaths as private tragedies, rather than a public health crisis. When mothers survive life-threatening complications during childbirth, they often lack complete information about what happened. With these stories nearly invisible, many Americans simply don’t know the problem exists. Therefore taking the conversation from private to public, allowing people to connect with one another, has been an important aspect of the project.
On Tuesday night, in partnership with the Brooklyn Public Library’s BPL Presents, we did this through a live event titled “Lost Mothers: Key Ways to Improve Maternal Health.” The forum convened a diverse crowd of experts — including doctors, doulas, midwives, nurses, expectant mothers, women who nearly died of childbirth and family members who lost a loved one — to discuss what the health care system can do to protect more women from harm, as well as steps that all of us can take.