The race to prevent the sudden death of mothers in childbirth in the U.S.

About 700 women die each year in the U.S. due to complications from pregnancy or giving birth, according to the CDC, which Dr. Neel Shah is hoping to change.
9:49 | 05/17/18

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Transcript for The race to prevent the sudden death of mothers in childbirth in the U.S.
fix it. Reporter: 4-month-old moussen just started laughing bringing joy to first-time father mustafa, who swells with pride as he shows off the nursery he and his partner tynesha designed. Everything was tynesha's idea. The name on the wall, his crib, everything. Reporter: Now all this reminders of the life that could have been. Mohsin is going to miss out on having a great mother. That's what's so bad about this situation. Reporter: His partner died giving birth to baby Mohsin. Tell me about tynesha. Generous, motivated, dedicated to her family. She was just a caring, loving person. Reporter: Her pregnancy had been going well. She was not high risk and had been regularly going to her prenatal visits. But during labor, tynesha began having trouble breeting. Within minutes, she went into cardiac arrest. Doctors performed a bedside emergency c-section to try to save her and the baby. What went through your mind? This can't be happening. You know, it's -- it seemed like a dream. I could hear him, trying to bring her back, trying to grab a pulse. Reporter: For tynesha, it was too late. The O.B., she came out and told me, I'm sorry, she didn't make it. I broke down. I witnessed her take her last breath in front of me. Reporter: She died of an amniotic fluid embolism, an often-fatal complication that occurs in 1 out of every 10,000 pregnancies. We don't know why it happens or how to prevent it. As a mom you can be healthy as can be, you can have the best prenail care in the world. In spite of all that, things can still go wrong because the system that's set up to take care of you isn't reliable. Reporter: Dr. Neil shah is not talking about tynesha's hospital, but the entire medical care system built around women. Before, during, and after pregnancy. Deficiencies in the entire system that will result in an estimated 700 women dying in the U.S. This year. And 60% of those deaths potentially preventible. Shah says potential life-it there ning complications in pregnancy and labor are not being recognized soon enough or being acted on fast enough. The man walks into an emergency room with pain, a cardiologist would have to see that person within a defined amount of time. It's common for a woman to go into an emergency room and not see an obstetrician for many, many hours. Gender discrimination in medicine? I think there's no other way to put it, yeah. Reporter: When quality of care varies tremendously from hospital to hospital, and half the counties in the U.S. Don't have a qualified midwife or obs strigs, you get a crisis that has ballooned out of control. Who in control is being affected the most? If you're an African-American mother, your risks of dying in childbirth are three to four times higher than if you're white. African-American women are less believed when they express that they have concerns about their symptoms. Particularly around pain. Reporter: Dr. Shah has taken it upon himself to find solutions inside the hospitals so they can be applied on a national level. We spent over 24 hours with him and his team at with Israel in Boston, Massachusetts, to see how they do things differently. It starts with communication. A moment like this, called the huddle. She's currently 5 to 6, 80, and minus 2 -- Reporter: All the doctors and nurses meet to discuss every patient on the delivery floor. She's pretty benign -- Reporter: So everyone is accountable for everyone's care. It's been shown across the country to make a really big difference in patient safety. Any allergies to medications? Great. Reporter: Down the hall, Wendy and her husband John have just arrived. You're a champion. You are doing awesome. Reporter: In labor with her first baby, Wendy has decided to try to go without an epidural. Deep breaths, deep breaths. Reporter: Something only 10% of women choose. And she's given the time to explore this option. Time another tenet of Dr. Shah's approach to fixing the system. Just keep what you're deep breaths. Reporter: Knowing when to wait, when to act swiftly. I think my water just broke. Oh, good, all right. Reporter: Eventually her contractions become more painful. It's not a cop-out to get an epidural. If that's what you want to do, where 100% behind you and support you in doing that. Okay, epidural. Give the order. You're doing so good. You got this. Reporter: Four hours later -- Three, two, O -- air out of your mouth -- Reporter: She starts pushing. Deep breath in through your nose. Everything you got, come on. Keep pushing, keep pushing. Deep breath. Push, push, push. There she goes. More, more, more, more, that's it, that's it. Take a breath. One, great job. Hi, little one. Hi, we were waiting for you. We're going to have a baby. Oh my gosh. Reporter: But in that moment of joy -- Would you like to cut the cord? Reporter: Wendy is unaware she's started to lose a lot of blood. You have a higher than average amount of bleeding right now. We have a resident? Reporter: For Dr. Shah, it's time to act swiftly. There's two places you can have extra bleeding. One from the tear, one from the uterus. We gave you some medicine to help with the uterus, I'm going to do the repair for the tear. Reporter: She's lost a liter of blood in minutes which qualifies as postpartum hemmorage. There's something pumping that I think is probably vaginal. I think we're okay. Thank you so much. One big family. Fist bumps all around. Thank you very much, thank you. Reporter: You may think that once a mother reaches this point that she's in the clear. But that's far from the truth. One of the things I'm actually worried about is our whole health care system unplugs after the mom goes home, until about six weeks later. The plurality of American women experience some form of postpartum blues or depression. Reporter: Something Eric dykes and his five children experienced firsthand. Today they're on a familiar drive. We're going to see mommy? Yeah. She's right over here. Reporter: Their mom, 39-year-old Emily dykes, died in 2016. Mommy! Reporter: She had been struggling with postpartum depression. The most difficult thing I've ever had to do is to tell my kids their mom wasn't coming home. Reporter: Childhood sweethearts, Emily and Eric already had four children. Jace, Colby, Nacy, Addie. Your presence I miss, your memory I treasure, loving you always -- Reporter: In 2015 they welcomed fifth child trey. But things were different this time. She would get anxious and agitated quite easily. Had a difficult time sleeping. Reporter: They saw her O.B., who prescribed an antidepressant. For a while things got better. But soon Emily was struggling again. We sought help from psychiatrists, we sought help through therapists. We were doing everything that at the time I knew that I could do to help her. Reporter: Growing more desperate, Emily went to an inpatient psychiatric facility where she was treated for 11 days. She came home feeling a little bit better. But in hindsight, it was -- it was a two-week respite. Reporter: Shortly thereafter, in the car with her father, the unimaginable happened. I happened to be on the phone with him at the time. I can her her in the background, hear the panic building. Then I heard -- I heard her exit the vehicle. And at that point the phone dropped. Reporter: Emily ran into traffic and was killed. It's my belief that the panic caused her to lose all spatial awareness and drive her to a place that she thought might be safe. That ultimately wasn't. Reporter: Eric has channeled his grief into action. He started the Emily effect, a foundation that provides resources and support to women suffering from pregnancy-related mood disorders. I think it's time now that we shine the light on what a mother goes through. And we step up those resources to ensure that our mothers have the care that they need. Reporter: These changes bring some small comfort to Emily's children. I love this boy so much. Reporter: But there's nothing that can bring back their mom. Give mommy a kiss! Do you want to give mommy a kiss? How come your don't wipe mommy's kisses off? Reporter: For "Nightline," I'm Dr. Jennifer Ashton in Utah. Our thanks to Dr. Jenn Ashton for her extraordinary reporting. One more note, to address this crisis, the American college of obstetricians and gynecologists have created guidelines for safer delivery and postpartum care, now implemented in 18 states.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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