When Madavia Johnson gave birth to Donald Ray Dowless III last year, she was hit by a case of severe postpartum anxiety.
She was scared to carry her son downstairs or drive him in a car. She couldn’t manage to continue law school―and could hardly leave the house―because she didn’t trust anyone to watch him. Her weight dropped from 140 to 115 pounds.
“It was very stressful for me mentally,” said Johnson, now 29, who lives in Clayton, N.C. And she found it hard to secure medical assistance because her Medicaid coverage ran out just two months after her son’s birth. Public health advocates are pushing to change that.
The difficulties Johnson faced contribute to the United States’ dismal record on maternal health. The U.S. is one of only three countries where maternal deaths are on the rise, joining Sudan and Afghanistan, according to the Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health, a program of the Council on Patient Safety in Women’s Health. And data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that about 700 women die in the U.S. every year from pregnancy complications. Sixty percent of those deaths are deemed preventable.