Jul 24, 2023 - News

Maternal mortality rates rise in Texas

Estimated maternal mortality rate in 2019, by state
Data: Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation; Map: Tory Lysik /Axios Visuals

Maternal mortality rates in Texas more than doubled between 1999 and 2019, per a new study.

Why it matters: The study — published in JAMA — provides the first state-level breakdowns by ethnic group, Axios' Oriana González reports.

The big picture: Nationally, maternal deaths more than doubled from 505 in 1999 to 1,210 in 2019.

  • States in the Midwest, the Great Plains and the South had significant increases during that time.

Zoom in: In Texas, the overall number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births increased from around 10 in 1999 to around 22 in 2019, the study shows.

  • The state had one of the highest increases in deaths among Black individuals during that time period, the study shows.

Between the lines: The Texas Legislature this year extended Medicaid coverage to mothers for one year after childbirth, a recommendation of the state's Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Review Committee.

  • Lawmakers didn't pass several other bills addressing maternal mortality, however, including legislation that would have expanded medical education coursework in cultural competence and implicit bias.

Context: Maternal mortality is defined as a death that takes place during birth or up to a year later.

  • Common causes of maternal death include hemorrhages, blood clots, high blood pressure, and cardiac and coronary conditions, as well as mental health conditions like death by suicide and overdose related to substance use disorder.
  • The JAMA study looked at pregnant individuals aged 10 to 54.

Meanwhile: American Indians and Alaska Natives had the biggest increases in maternal mortality nationally, especially in states in the middle of the country where such inequities had not been previously highlighted, the researchers wrote.

  • "Often, states in the South are called out as having the worst maternal mortality rates in the nation, whereas California and Massachusetts have the best. But that doesn't tell the whole story," said Allison Bryant, one of the study's co-authors and a senior medical director at the Mass General Brigham system.

What's next: The Texas Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Review Committee is still examining pregnancy-related deaths during the COVID pandemic and how maternal health varies among different demographics in the state.

Go deeper: Maternal deaths widespread beyond the South

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