The United States should not have the highest rate of maternal deaths in the developed world.

Yet that’s the reality that women in America now face. Here, the rate of mothers who die from pregnancy-related complications has risen since 2000, even as the rate in other countries has declined.

Recent reporting by NPR and ProPublica has highlighted the extent of the problem, including how a focus on infants’ health can cause providers to overlook what’s afflicting their mothers.

Responding to this escalating crisis should be a top priority for government officials. To that end, Congress recently did the right thing by passing a bill that aims to get to the root of why U.S. mothers — particularly black women and women in rural areas — are dying from pregnancy-related causes an estimated 700 to 900 times per year. President Donald Trump signed the bill Dec. 21.

The Preventing Maternal Deaths Act is a first step, but an important one. The bill provides $12 million per year to support state maternal mortality review committees, which can investigate and gather data on every maternal death that occurs.

This kind of data-gathering matters because most maternal deaths are preventable, health experts say. Investigating what went wrong in each case can inform best practices at hospitals across the country, helping to keep more women alive.

Editorial by The Seattle Times

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