EDITORIAL: New mothers deserve better

The Herald Bulletin, Anderson, Ind.
·2 min read

Apr. 30—The number of women in the United States who die during pregnancy or soon after childbirth is a national disgrace.

And the situation is even worse in Indiana.

According to the latest statistics, Indiana has the third highest maternal mortality rate in the country.

A committee formed to study the issue released a report in December looking at the 63 pregnancy-associated deaths that occurred in Indiana during 2018.

The committee found that substance abuse was the most common factor, likely contributing to more half of the deaths recorded. More than 36% were a result of accidental overdose.

A recent report by The Commonwealth Fund studied mortality rates in the United States and 10 other industrialized countries and found that women in the United States were the most likely to die from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth.

The study examined the 2018 statistics for Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States, and it found the maternal death rate for the United States was more than double that of the other countries. That rate, 17.4 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births, was almost six times the number recorded for the Netherlands, Norway and New Zealand.

The numbers are worse in Indiana where the maternal mortality rate for Black women was 53 per 100,000 live births. For white women, it was 44.

In spite of those numbers, Indiana lawmakers took no real action to address this issue during the just-ended legislative session.

Fortunately, the federal government stepped in.

A provision of the recently approved COVID relief package provides funding to help states extend postpartum coverage for Medicaid recipients up to a year after a child is born. The expanded coverage takes effect in April of next year.

The extension had been among recommendations in that December report, and women's health advocates see the move as a major step forward.

Still, there is much more to be done.

The report found a significant delay for substance abuse treatment and recovery services in this state, and it urged state officials to keep expanding those resources, particularly for pregnant women.

The committee determined that 86% of pregnancy-associated deaths occurred postpartum, including 37% after 6 weeks, and it concluded that 87% of the deaths could have been prevented.

87%. That's a number Indiana's leaders need to hear over and over again until they've made our state a healthy place for mothers and their babies.