Beyond Texas: Maternal Deaths A Problem Across US


Researchers have discovered that maternal deaths have nearly doubled in Texas, but data also showed that the problem is prevalent across the United States.

In a study to be published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, researchers report that 148 women in Texas died in 2012 due to pregnancy-related causes, up from 2010's 72 deaths. Additionally, the overall maternal death rate in the state jumped from 18 deaths for every 100,000 births in 2006 to 36 for every 100,000 births in 2014.

"It's a tragedy and it really is an embarrassment. This is a problem we should be able to address and fix," said Dr. Daniel Grossman from the University of Texas at Austin's Texas Policy Evaluation Project.

While the rise in maternal deaths in Texas coincided with the state slashing its family planning budget, researchers did not identify that as the cause for the spike. Actually, no one is sure why the problem is as prevalent as it is.

Sarah Wheat, Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas spokesperson, has pointed out that family planning clinics are entry points for women accessing the health care system. With family planning clinics closed because of the budget cuts, women may be delayed in receiving the care they and their baby need to thrive.

However, Texas is not a special case, because the U.S. has seen an increase in maternal deaths in the overall from 1993 to 2013. In fact, the U.S. is the only developed country to see this trend, said the World Health Organization (WHO).

For reference, the average maternal mortality rate in developed countries according to the WHO is 12 deaths for every 100,000 live births. Given Texas' 2014 figure, the state has not only surpassed the average maternal mortality, but also did so by three times.

Based on the Obstetrics and Gynecology study's data, researchers said that the average maternal death in the other 48 states and the District of Columbia is 23.8 per 100,000 live births in 2014, up from 18.8 per 100,000 live births in 2000.

Texas has actually launched an inquiry to get to the bottom of the problem, but the state task force's findings won't be released until September. Those involved started their work in 2013 and have not revealed any hints about the contents of their research.

There are different factors at play when a maternal death occurs, but it points to the fact that affordable, quality health care is not always accessible to women in the U.S. Low-income women are at risk in particular not only because of the usually lacking access to prenatal care, but poverty is also linked to poor outcomes for general health, leading to a rise in diabetes, obesity, asthma and depression, which are considered by the National Institutes of Health as pregnancy risk factors.

Photo: Torsten Mangner | Flickr

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