Pregnant at 33, New Jersey's Lauren Bloomstein was excited to soon welcome her first baby into the world. But in a joint effort by ProPublica and NPR, Nina Martin and Renee Montagne document how things went terribly wrong on Oct. 1, 2011—the day Bloomstein's daughter, Hailey Anne, was born, and the day before Bloomstein died from childbirth complications. Adding an extra level of awful irony: Bloomstein was a neonatal intensive-care nurse, a fact looming over the equally shocking statistic that the US has the worst maternal mortality rate of all developed countries, with 60% of those deaths avoidable. The reasons behind this phenomenon are many, with Martin and Montagne listing lack of adequate health care, older moms with more complicated health histories, and neglected health issues unrelated to pregnancy as just a few of the factors that could contribute to a new mom or mom-to-be dying.
The US infant mortality rate, however, hit a "historic low" in 2014, per the CDC—meaning the medical community may have been lulled into complacency on the maternal care front while focusing attention on the babies. In Bloomstein's case, she'd developed preeclampsia, a dangerous form of hypertension that can prove fatal if not caught quickly. Her husband, Larry, watched in horror as her condition deteriorated, her elevated blood pressure eventually spurring brain hemorrhaging. She died 20 hours after Hailey's birth. Advocates nationwide are slowly working to remedy this upending of the birthing process, via initiatives that help medical staff better deal with such emergencies. Larry, meanwhile, has since remarried and is raising 5-year-old Hailey Anne with his new wife and younger daughter. His lawsuit against Lauren's OB-GYN, the medical center where she died, and five nurses is still pending. More here. (Texas has a disturbingly high maternal death rate.)