HOUSTON - Recently, a story that has been making headlines claims Texas has the highest maternal death rate, not only in the United States but among developed countries.
It sounds shocking, but is it true? KHOU 11 News decided to verify the scary-sounding story.
First of all, it is important to understand that maternal mortality is when a woman dies during her pregnancy, or in the months after.
Many reports about Texas’ skyrocketing rates are based on the a study led by the University of Maryland.
The study, which was published in 2016, cites statistics from the CDC and National Center for Health Statistics. The study found a moderate increase in maternal deaths between 2000 and 2010. However, the rate more than doubled between 2010 and 2012.
According to Dr. Sean Blackwell, Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist with Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital and UTHealth, those numbers may be accurate but the conclusion is false.
He explained the rise is because Texas changed the way it reports pregnancy-related deaths.
Dr. Blackwell told KHOU 11 News Texas does have a concerning maternal death rate, he does not think its numbers are really off the charts compared to other developed countries
The Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force, which studies these issues in Texas, agrees.
It found inconsistencies in the way maternal deaths are reported to the government, according to a report released in 2016.
The task force report also looked at the reason behind maternal deaths, listing cardiac events, drug overdoses, and hypertension as the leading causes of pregnancy-related deaths in Texas.
It also found that many of the deaths occurred more than six weeks after a pregnancy ended.
All three sources used to verify this story mentioned that tackling access to healthcare would help Texas bring the rate down.
University of Maryland study “Recent Increases in the U.S. Maternal Mortality Rate”
2016 report by the Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force and Department of State Health Services
Dr. Sean Blackwell: Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist with Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital and UTHealth
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