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July 14th, 2009
Birth of a Surgeon
Audio: Maternal Mortality in the U.S. vs. Africa

Melissa Cheyney is a medical anthropologist and reproductive biology professor at Oregon State University, and a certified practicing midwife.

She spoke with WIDE ANGLE multimedia producer Renee Feltz about the imbalance in maternal health care in the United States versus the developing world.

Click below to learn why Cheyney says U.S. spending on medical interventions during childbirth should be directed more toward low-tech care, and why the opposite is true for countries such as Mozambique.


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  • Davalynn Johnson

    I heard this audio interview and I agree with Ms. Cheyney 100%! Everything she is saying as a researcher is right on. I must testify as an ordinary woman, not a doctor or midwife, but one who has experienced two “at-risk” pregnancies and labor under the US high-tech (flawed) system. Because of unnecessary medical intervention and two doctors who were more interested in cattle-shoving patients along than tuning in to individual needs, I stood as both patient and self-advocate during my hospital-bound deliveries. My blood pressure surged as I yelled to force the doctors not to perform an episiotomy and to allow me to have a “relaxed” drug-free natural labor. My high-risk pregnancy (really just a hormonal fight between pancreas and placenta, quite common) poised both nurses and doctors to treat me like a leper, to talk over my head about what needed to be done to my body and baby, like a beached whale. This experience led to my decision never to have another child in the US, grossly affecting my family plans. Having lived in another country with universal health care, I have seen the care and attention that professionals pay to each patient’s decisions about their own body. They are not frightened into becoming medicalized during their pregnancy or childbirth experiences. The US medical profession has much to learn from other countries. When will we admit that to be first at something, means they (the other countries) are the leaders?

  • SIDNEY

    THIS IS A GREAT ADVERTISMENT FOR SOCIALIZED GOVT CONTROLLED HEALTH CARE. IT HAS NOT WORKE IN ANY COUNTRY THAT HAS TRIED IT. NEITHER CANADA NOR ENGLAND
    NOR GERMANY ETC. YOU CAN DIE WAITING TO BE TREATED FOR ANYTHING MEDICAL IN ANY OF THESE COUNTRIES. I KNOW
    FROM EXPERIENCE THAT YOU ARE ENTERING THESE HOSPITALS
    WAITING TO DIE BEFORE THEY GET AROUND TO SEEING YOU, LET ALONE TREATING YOU

  • tusdy edwards

    Sometimes, I think we get the word natural childbirth confused, I would not want that so many woment in other countries Die because of natural childbirth they did not the medical attention they need when the body does not respond like it should thats why we have medications to help women, so natural is not always the way to go that like given your life a 50 to 50 chance. Yes I lbelieve some women have had bad experiences but, I rather been in a medical hospital were I can get the help that I need instead of bleeding to death because that country does not have the meds I need. So explain to me natural because there is such thing. I have lived in Germany for five years and had two sons there, and I wouldl have rather had my sons state side, but my spouse was military. So I know the difference in there Health Care and our Health Care here in America. I could not understand not word the Doctor was saying, at least here in America you can stop and ask the Doctors to explain themselves instead of laying in the bed and feeling sorry for yourself. I believe he is speaking English, so give me a break the best medical I have received is in America, and not to say that other country practices are not that good, but there is no place like home.

  • sandra Lynne

    Don’t you think that part of the US’s spending on healthcare and obstetrics in particular is related to legal liability? Excessive overuse of technology is a poor utilization of our health care dollars. Obstetrics is one of the most often sued specialties. WIth outrageous malpractice costs, many doctors and even some CNM;s are deciding not to practice obstetrics. I believe we need to include this in our national debate to lower costs and make optimal prenatal care/delivery safe and available to all women.

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