Texas isn’t the ‘worst,’ but moms are still dying

Houston Chronicle | Opinion/Editorials |  Lisa Falkenberg
April 11, 2018

It’s good news that Texas’ maternal mortality rate is much lower than previously believed, allowing the Lone Star State to shed the shameful, and apparently erroneously bestowed, distinction of having one of the highest rates in the world.

The bad news is that women are still dying.

That fact is not changed by a study this week blaming much of the alarming spike in pregnancy-related deaths in the pivotal year of 2012 on data errors.

Several of the state’s top health experts concluded in the report, published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, that an enhanced way of counting the deaths using multiple sources shows the number of women who died in 2012 was actually 56, not 147.

Experts had been concerned about bad data for a while, so it’s good that we have some more reliable numbers and accurate picture of the problem.

Still, the picture is from 2012. There are still many questions and the need to assess data from more recent years to determine the situation today.

But we can’t let a bit of good news kill the motivation that has been building to address a problem that can still be described as bad for the state of Texas.

“I would hate to see us lose the momentum that we’ve gained,” said Dr. Lisa Hollier, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Texas Children’s Hospital.

“We still have women dying of preventable causes,” she said. “We still have a two-fold, a doubling, in the risk of death for African-American women. Those things need to change. I don’t think we should accept where we are.”

Hollier, who co-authored this week’s report and also chairs the Texas Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force, points out that deaths aren’t the only measure of the problem. For every maternal death, Hollier says there are 50 women who experience severe complications that can lead to hysterectomies, breathing problems requiring ventilator support and kidney failure, to name a few.

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