Pregnancy is a unique time for women, but it is for men as well. Something monumental is happening in your life and to your partner’s body, and there’s little control you have over the situation. It is natural to feel a little like you’re sitting on the sidelines.

What makes matters worse is when something goes wrong during pregnancy, birth or recovery. You want to help your partner as much as you can, but everything is new and you’re unsure of the right solution. Your best option is to place your trust in the medical professionals who you expect to know what to do, but sometimes things can still go wrong.

Unfortunately, this scenario is more common than expecting dads may know. In the United States, maternal mortality is increasing as infant mortality goes down. Many times, this is due to medical errors.

What is maternal mortality?

Maternal mortality is a death that occurs either due to complications from pregnancy or birth or within six weeks of having given birth. In the U.S., this number has steadily risen since 1990; back then, there were 17 maternal deaths for every 100,000 pregnant women. As of 2015, there were 26 deaths for the same sample size.

What this means for American women is that they are 50 percent more like to die in childbirth than their own mothers were when they were born. For black women, this risk is three to four times higher, regardless of income or education.

Morbidity rates are worse

One aspect of maternal health during pregnancy and birth that is often overlooked is maternal morbitidy. This is how the medical community defines life-threatening complications that almost lead to death or pose a risk of death, but the patient lives.

After a year of researching maternal health and reporting, National Public Radio and ProPublica found that for every woman who does die in childbirth, which is already high, 70 nearly die. These complications are severely damaging to a woman’s health and can be a huge financial burden for families.

That is in addition to the emotional toll of losing or almost losing your partner. One woman who was interviewed ended up in a coma and when she awoke, she discovered she had undergone an emergency hysterectomy. While the procedure saved her life, she mourned the loss of the option to bear more children, as she had hope to do in the future.

What can dads do?

Health professionals have said that clinicians and hospitals need to do more to ensure women’s safety, such as running training examples of worst-case scenarios to be better prepared. They also say politicians can do more by tracking maternal mortality to better identify failures and create solutions to fix them.

But how do dads combat that feeling of helplessness, knowing how dangerous pregnancy and birth can be for their child’s mother? One thing you can do is be your partner’s advocate with her doctors and at the hospital. Make sure they take her pain and conditions seriously. Keep fighting for her if her caregivers aren’t listening. 

If something tragic does happen, you can pursue legal action to cover the medical expenses. It doesn’t heal the trauma of a death or near-death, but it can ease a burden that allows families to focus on their emotional needs.