Risk factors for new moms are assessed
State task force on maternal mortality looking for solutions
AUSTIN — Knowing certain risk factors could help health care providers prevent pregnancyrelated deaths in Texas, whose maternity mortality rate is the highest in the developed world.
The Texas Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force discussed identifying risk factors for maternal deaths Friday at the Department of State Health Services. It was the first time the task force met since lawmakers extended the group’s existence during the special legislative session in July.
Karen Ruggiero, the director of maternal and child health epidemiology at the Department of State Health Services, presented the task force with an updated data analysis. The investigation’s purpose was to examine which demographic factors, health factors and birth outcomes place mothers at higher risk for maternal death, she said.
Texas earned the dubious distinction of having the highest rate of maternal mortality in the developed world after it saw the death rate for pregnant women double from 18.6 deaths to 35.8 deaths per 100,000 live births between 2010 and 2014.
New stats revealed Friday showed that between 2012 and 2015, 382 Texas women died from pregnancy-related and pregnancy-associated causes. According to the data analyzed, the most common causes of death shortly after giving birth were heart failure and hemorrhage. From these findings, investigators crafted a risk profile, listing traits that were correlated with maternal death.
The analysis showed that some risk factors included lack of education, lack of health insurance, hypertension, smoking while pregnant and diabetes. The task force also found in its 2016 report that black women are disproportionately affected by pregnancy-related causes of death.
While these risk factors can help health care providers look for potential pregnancy complications, Ruggiero warned against making interpretations carelessly. The investigators chose to look at the years from 2012 to 2015 for enough data to come up with meaningful interpretations, she said, but the numbers the task force is working with are still small.
“One maternal death is one too many,” Ruggiero said. “[But] when you get those low types of numbers, it’s hard to determine whether those numbers were really due to whatever you were examining or whether it was due to chance.”
Other states have already adopted preventive measures to decrease maternal mortality rates. Though Texas has modeled some of its practices against a na- tionwide initiative for maternal health, it’s best to shape practices based off state-specific data, said DSHS commissioner John Hellerstedt.
Adriana Kohler, senior health policy analyst at Texans Care for Children, said in a news release that she’s happy to see the task force continuing its work.
“As the task force develops recommendations, we will need state leaders to show that same level of passion for implementing strategies to save the lives of Texas moms,” Kohler said.