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High Maternal Mortality Rate in Texas

Health

Pregnant woman holds her belly | Image by Natalia Deriabina/Shutterstock

A recent report from the Texas Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Review Committee revealed that the recent death toll of mothers during pregnancy and childbirth has been extraordinarily high.

Over the past decade, the Lone Star State has bucked the national trend of decreasing birth rates, with Texas-born babies representing around 10% of the national average, as The Dallas Express previously reported.

At the same time, with 118 women dying in the course of childbirth and pregnancy in Texas in 2019, and the national average sitting at around 650 to 750 per year, Texas alone accounts for almost 20% of maternal mortality nationwide.

Further, the trend appears to be worsening: From 2018 to 2020, pregnancy and childbirth complications increased from 58.2 per 10,000 deliveries to 72.7 per 10,000.

It was also found that in 90% of these cases, the death of the mother may actually have been preventable, according to the review committee’s report.

A quarter of these deaths were caused by obstetric hemorrhage, making it the leading cause of maternal mortality in Texas.

These obstetric hemorrhages were most often caused by ectopic pregnancies, which is when a fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus. These pregnancies are nonviable and can cause hemorrhaging and other life-threatening complications if untreated.

According to the report, other common causes contributing to maternal death were suicide and homicide, accounting for 27% in total, as well as obesity (21%), mental disorders (21%), and substance abuse (8%).

Obesity, a public health problem faced by residents of DFW in particular, not only makes it difficult for women to conceive in the first place but also drives numerous complications for both mother and child, such as preeclampsia, congenital anomalies, gestational diabetes, and fetal death.

As The Dallas Express previously reported, obesity has also been linked to deficient milk production, which undermines infant health.

All in all, as the review committee wrote in its report, “[h]ealthier women become healthier mothers, who contribute to healthier infants, families, and communities.”

In line with this, the committee put forth several recommendations to address the issues of maternal morbidity and mortality, one of which is expanding access to comprehensive health services both during pregnancy and postpartum.

The review committee also pointed to the need for improvements to the state’s maternal health workforce, such as standardizing protocols for responding to obstetric and postpartum emergencies and optimizing coordination between emergency and maternal health services.

The report is expected to help determine new policies during the next legislative session, which begins on Tuesday.

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