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Pregnancy-Linked Death Rate Skyrockets In Texas, Emerges As Highest In The Developed World

Texas has the highest maternal mortality rate not only in the United States, but also in the developed world, reveals a 2016 study led by the University of Maryland.

The research shows pregnancy-related deaths in Texas nearly doubled in just two years between 2010 and 2012.

Maternal Mortality Rate Doubled In Texas

According to the study, 148 Texan women died in 2012 because of pregnancy-related causes, compared with just 72 deaths in 2010.

Moreover, the state's overall maternal mortality rate increased dramatically from 2010 to 2014.

Between 2000 and 2010, records showed 17.7 to 18.6 maternal deaths for every 100,000 births. The number of pregnancy-related fatalities jumped to 33 in 2011, and further increased in 2014, reaching 35.8 deaths.

In addition, the 2016 study uncovered black women are disproportionately affected, being more likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth. Although this ethnic group accounts for only 11 percent of births, black mothers make up 28 percent of pregnancy-linked fatalities.

These findings are consistent with a Vox analysis of the data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The investigation, conducted in the same year, underlined the U.S. maternal death rate doubled since 1987, while decreasing in majority of other countries.

The 2016 Vox analysis also stated black mothers have a triple risk of dying during childbirth compared with white mothers.

What Texas Lawmakers Are(n't) Doing To Fix The Problem

The University of Maryland study, published last autumn in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, documents that although pregnancy-related fatalities are most prevalent in Texas, maternal deaths are a major concern throughout the United States.

Within the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States and Mexico are the two member countries with the highest maternal mortality rates.

Yet, eight months after the study's publication, Texas legislators still haven't come up with a solution to curb the increasing death rate.

Although there have been some proposals that might have helped with the problem in Texas, the measures weren't even voted on, and ended up being killed along with other bills in a Republican squabble over unrelated issues.

Among the initiatives that did pass the vote was the measure to post guidelines on the internet about how to report pregnancy-related deaths. Also on the voted list, another initiative will now allow mothers to be screened for postpartum depression for up to a year after childbirth.

Legislative Measures That Didn't Make It To Vote

The most notable idea came from Republican Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, who proposed to extend the life of the Texan maternal mortality task force with an additional four years.

The task force, comprising a committee of doctors and behavioral specialists, was created in 2013, and will remain active through 2019.

According to Lisa Hollier, chairwoman of the task force, so far the committee has identified cardiac problems as a leading cause of maternal mortality.

But the data gathered thus far "doesn't lead to specific information for appropriate intervention programs," shows Hollier.

Sen. Kolkhorst's proposal to keep the task force around until 2023 would have granted the committee more time to investigate the specific causes of pregnancy-related deaths and establish some much-needed preventive measures. However, Texas lawmakers failed to vote on the new measure.

"We had a chance to move the needle and we really failed to do so," said Sen. Kolkhorst, a Republican from Brenham, west of Houston.

"Certainly, as we develop in medicine, we can do better to take care of women in today's society versus past societies. I'm very disappointed," she added.

Another initiative that didn't make it to vote belonged to State Rep. Shawn Thierry, a Democrat from Houston. Thierry's proposal was focused on the high maternal death rate among black women, and sought to conduct a comparative investigation of their mortality risk in different income brackets.

A third unvoted proposal had to do with extending Medicaid coverage to low-income adults and to mothers for longer periods after childbirth.

Since this year's session has ended, legislators will have to postpone discussing the matter until 2019, when the next session begins.

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