Despite the fact some diseases used to mean a death sentence are now treatable in the United States, experts today say American women are still struggling with higher maternal mortality rates than other developed countries.
According to a report by the Los Angeles Times, the rate at which women in the U.S. die during childbirth more than doubled between 1987 and 2013.
Furthermore, a second report published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology stated 31 other countries boast lower maternal mortality rates than we do.
Texas in particular, experts say, is seeing a concerning rise in the rate of women who don’t survive childbirth.
Among those affected, African American women are reportedly most at risk, and the issue is being described as such a crisis, a Dallas based nonprofit, the Afiya Center, published a report called ‘We Can’t Watch Black Women Die.’
Because there are so many different factors potentially influencing maternal mortality, including complications during pregnancy or after, a person’s access to health care and their environment, physicians say it’s hard to nail down a single cause.
A task force on maternal mortality appointed by the state did find some common factors when they conducted a study using data from patients in 2011 and 2012, however:
Comparing the health of women in Texas who survived childbirth with those who didn’t during that time period, analysts said they found cardiac events, drug overdoses and hypertension-related disorders were leading causes of death during and and before delivery.
“In an ideal world, a woman would have the opportunity to have a visit with a physician before she becomes pregnant to identify any potential risk factors before she gets pregnant,” obstetrician-gynecologist Lisa Hollier said in an interview. “Then a woman would enter prenatal in her first trimester. Unfortunately, African American women are the least likely to have that first trimester of prenatal care.”
In addition to a lack of health coverage, studies show African American women may also be under higher levels of chronic stress, leading to related health conditions proven to complicate pregnancy.
This is why, Shawn Thierry, a lawmaker representing Houston’s 146th district in the Texas House, said she introduced legislation to investigate whether socioeconomic and educational background play a role in the maternal mortality rate of African American women during the state’s most recent legislative session.
The bill didn’t pass, but according to the Times article, Thierry herself almost died giving birth to her own daughter.
Living among a world-class medical center, it is unclear where Houstonians go from here.