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According to a recent study, the mortality rate for Black mothers in Mississippi is higher than that of White mothers.
Science & Health

According to a recent study, the mortality rate for Black mothers in Mississippi is higher than that of White mothers.

A recent study revealed that although Black people represent 38% of the population in Mississippi, Black women were four times more likely to experience pregnancy-related deaths compared to white women in the state during 2020.

Dr. Michelle Owens and Dr. Courtney Mitchell, leaders of the Maternal Mortality Review Committee that conducted the study, emphasized the importance of acknowledging and actively addressing racial disparities at all levels – institutional, community, and state – to decrease these unequal outcomes.

On Wednesday, the Mississippi State Department of Health released the results of their investigation.

The committee reported that from 2016 to 2020, 80% of deaths related to pregnancy in Mississippi could have been prevented. They also noted that cardiovascular disease and hypertension continue to be the leading causes of maternal mortality.

Owens and Mitchell stated that women require thorough primary healthcare before, during, and after pregnancy. However, numerous individuals reside in regions with limited access to medical services.

“Smaller hospitals with limited resources are bearing a significant amount of this care, potentially leading to their closure and reduced access to obstetrical services. This places additional strain on both individuals and their communities,” they stated.

FILE - A doctor uses a handheld probe on a pregnant woman to measure the heartbeat of her fetus, in Jackson, Mississippi, Dec. 17, 2021.

In Jackson, Mississippi on December 17, 2021, a doctor utilized a handheld probe to check the fetal heartbeat of a pregnant woman.

In 2017, the Maternal Mortality Review Committee was established, comprising of healthcare professionals such as doctors, nurses, public health specialists, and other relevant fields.

Between 2016 and 2020, the committee discovered that Mississippi had a pregnancy-related mortality rate of 35.2 deaths per 100,000 live births. The study did not include a five-year statistic for the entire U.S., but it did reveal that the national rate was 20.1 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2019 and 32.9 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2020.

For a considerable time, Mississippi has been among the least affluent states in the United States, experiencing elevated levels of obesity and heart disease.

The Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies program provided by the state health department offers care management and home visits to expectant mothers and at-risk infants to prevent health complications.

Dr. Daniel Edney, the state health officer, expressed in a news release about the maternal mortality study that even one mother’s death is unacceptable.

The committee suggested that Mississippi’s leaders should increase Medicaid coverage to include individuals in lower-paying jobs without access to private healthcare, a proposal that has been met with resistance from Republican Governor Tate Reeves.

At the beginning of the year, Reeves approved a bill that extends postpartum Medicaid coverage for a complete year, instead of just two months.

Under the healthcare reform enacted by former President Barack Obama in 2010, states have the choice to expand Medicaid. However, Mississippi is among the 10 states that have not chosen to do so. These states are governed by Republicans and have Republican majorities in their legislatures.

The leaders of the Maternal Mortality Review Committee stated that it is important to include Medicaid expansion in order to keep rural hospitals open and provide access to telehealth services. They also emphasized the need for these hospitals to have the resources and staff necessary to provide high levels of critical care, attract and retain enough healthcare providers, and have access to life-saving equipment, especially in the state’s most vulnerable areas.

The research analyzed fatalities that happened either during pregnancy or within a year after. It described pregnancy-related deaths as ones that were caused by pregnancy itself or by the exacerbation of a pre-existing condition due to the changes in the body during pregnancy. Pregnancy-associated deaths, on the other hand, were defined as ones that were not directly linked to pregnancy.

In the span of five years, there were a total of 17 homicides and four suicides related to pregnancy. Additionally, there were 26 cases where substance abuse disorder was a factor in maternal death and 30 cases where other mental health conditions contributed to a death.

According to the research, 32 maternal deaths were linked to obesity and 22 were linked to discrimination. It was also mentioned that certain deaths related to pregnancy could have multiple underlying causes.

The committee proposed that healthcare professionals establish protocols and training programs to handle maternal patients experiencing severe symptoms for the same health issue. This includes training to prevent any biases or discrimination.