New Report Adds to Understanding of Maternal Mortality and Morbidity in Texas

News Release
Aug. 21, 2018

Task force review finds most pregnancy-related deaths are preventable

A new report provides more information on the causes of maternal deaths and severe pregnancy complications in Texas and the factors that put mothers at risk. The joint report brings together the results of in-depth case reviews by the Texas Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force and a broader analysis of maternal death data by the Texas Department of State Health Services to present the state’s most complete picture of maternal mortality and morbidity to date.

The task force recently completed its first full year of case reviews by studying medical, autopsy and other confidential records for 89 maternal deaths that occurred in 2012. The reviews found that four out of five pregnancy-related deaths in 2012 would have had at least some chance of being prevented with the proper intervention. The task force also found that black women were 50 percent more likely to suffer a pregnancy-related death than women as a whole and more than twice as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women.

The DSHS data analysis of maternal deaths from 2012 to 2015 shows that women with chronic health conditions like obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure had an increased risk of maternal death; for example, women with high blood pressure were two-and-a-half times as likely to die during or after pregnancy than women without high blood pressure. Hemorrhage and heart issues were the most common causes of death in the first seven days after pregnancy, and drug overdose was the most common cause of maternal death within a year.

“The report provides us with more evidence to guide our activities to address maternal mortality and morbidity in Texas,” said DSHS Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt. “It shows where interventions like TexasAIM can have the greatest impact.”

TexasAIM, launched earlier this year, is a partnership with more than 180 hospitals to implement maternal safety bundles, sets of practices that help hospital staff prevent and respond to pregnancy complications. Hospitals are first implementing the bundle on maternal hemorrhage, and future bundles will address opioid use and high blood pressure.

“These findings illustrate the important need to change the way obstetric care providers and our patients look at the postpartum period,” said task force chair Dr. Lisa Hollier. “Women can benefit from a better understanding of potential complications and access to their care providers for services and supports tailored to a woman’s individual needs.”

Task force recommendations to address maternal mortality and morbidity include improving how providers screen women for maternal risk factors, better educating new mothers on risks after delivery, addressing racial disparities, and launching a public awareness effort to improve the overall health of mothers and babies.

Through the state budget process, DSHS is requesting an additional $7 million over the next two-year budget cycle to develop new risk assessment tools and train providers how to use them, increase public and provider awareness of maternal health risks, and further expand TexasAIM.

The full report is available at /Legislative/Reports-2018.aspx.


(News Media Contact: Chris Van Deusen, DSHS Director of Media Relations, 512-776-7119)

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