In Texas, too many new moms die. Here’s how to stop that. [Opinion]

Houston Chronicle, By Erica Giwa and Stephanie Marton
May 22, 2019

The statistics on maternal mortality in Texas are staggering. For every 100,000 live births, there are between 14.6 and 18.6 maternal deaths. Among black women, who are still severely disproportionately affected, the rate leaps to 27.8 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.

These numbers, according to data published in the Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology last year, were both astounding and unacceptable to the medical community. A key fact to remember about maternal mortality is more than 60 percent of deaths occurred after 42 days post-delivery. That statistic highlights the importance of continuous Medicaid coverage for new moms and their children, which several House and Senate bills aim to achieve.

As the legislative sessions rapidly comes to a close, the clock is running out on these bills. That does not mean we should stop working on a solution to make sure Texas mothers and their children have access to life-saving care.

Two things we do know about deliveries and maternal mortality in Texas: first, more than 50 percent of births in Texas are covered by Medicaid; second, a large portion of women covered by Medicaid do not have access to health care prior to pregnancy. Not surprisingly, delayed access to quality obstetrical care, increasing maternal age and low-socioeconomic status are all contributors to maternal mortality. Black women in all socioeconomic groups are bearing the burden of maternal mortality nationally, with rates two to three times higher than their white and Hispanic counterparts.

Maternal mortality doesn’t just happen. It’s usually preceded by severe maternal morbidity, which often arises from underlying medical conditions such as hypertension, diabetes or heart disease. The Texas Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force, a collaborative of more than 50 leaders chosen to address poor maternal health outcomes in our state, has worked tirelessly to outline the gravity of the problem and determine solutions.

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Giwa is the medical director of OB/GYN at Texas Children’s Health Plan and The Center for Children and Women, and Marton is the medical director of pediatrics at Texas Children’s Health Plan and The Center for Children and Women.