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In a story from the "Chiropractic News Service" it was noted that federal health officials reported the rate at which American women die from pregnancy and childbirth complications hasn't changed in 15 years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC) maternal deaths occurred at a rate of seven or eight per 100,000 live births every year from 1982 to 1996. The CDC also said half of all such deaths are preventable.

Similar to infant mortality, maternal deaths are used as a measure of a country's overall health. In some developing nations, maternal death rates are as high as 1,700 per 100,000 births. In other countries, such as Norway and Switzerland, maternal deaths occur at about half the U.S. rate.

Researchers said such deaths are rare enough that many doctors may not notice the problem. The CDC identified maternal deaths by looking at death certificates. However, some researchers said such deaths are under reported and the actual rates could be three times higher.

More than half of maternal deaths are caused by bleeding, infection, pregnancy-induced high blood pressure and tubal pregnancies, complications that can be prevented or treated with early diagnosis, the CDC said.

The CDC also reported that differences in maternal deaths between black and white women indicate room for improvement. It found that maternal deaths of black women ranged from 18 to 22 per 100,000 births, compared with five to six deaths per 100,000 births for white women.

Midwife Deliveries Safer

In a related story from the Washington Post, results from a new federal study found babies delivered by certified nurse midwives were significantly less likely to die than those delivered by physicians. The study conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics, and published in the Journal of Epidemiological and Community Health, was the first to compare infant mortality rate between physician attended births and those births attended by nurse midwives. After ruling our other outside factors, the study looked at 3.9 millions births in 1991. Results showed a 19% lower infant mortality rate for births attended by nurse midwives than those attended by physicians. In addition when the births were attended by nurse midwives, deaths that occur within the first 28 days of life were 33% lower, and the incidence of low birth-weight babies was 31 percent lower.

Authors of the study, and researchers, Marion F. MacDorman and Gopal K. Singh noted that part of the reason may be that the physicians care may be more "episodic" or transient, while the nurse midwives spend more time with the women in prenatal care and during labor.

Pregnant smokers transfer potent carcinogen.

The above is the headline from an article in the Monday, August 24th, 1998 issue of the Atlanta Constitution Journal. New scientific studies now show that a powerful carcinogen know as "NNK" is transmitted directly into the fetus when a pregnant women smokes. This dangerous substance is also passed on to newborns from the breast milk of mothers who smoke.

This new danger is in addition to the harmful effects of both nicotine and carbon monoxide, which are passed on to the unborn fetus of pregnant women who smoke. Nicotine is highly addictive with a long list of adverse health effects while carbon monoxide decreases the amount of oxygen to the body and brain of the developing fetus.

It is estimated that tobacco smoke contains 2500 chemical compounds, of which at least 40 are known carcinogens. Despite these health warnings it is estimated that 60% of women who smoke continue to do so while pregnant.