State Works To Lower Maternal Death Rates

New York has created a task force to lower maternal morality rates in the state.

In September, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the task force, created earlier this year, held their first meeting. The announcement stated that New York has made improvements in reducing maternal mortality rates since 2010, when it was ranked 46th in the nation, the state still ranks 30th in the nation.

Dr. Nancy Allen, an obstetrician-gynecologist who works for Lane Women’s Health Group in Jamestown and assists pregnant women with deliveries at UPMC Chautauqua said, the hospital doesn’t have a lot of maternal deaths. She said the number one cause of maternal death, however, is hemorrhaging. She added it depends on the demographic and the age group.

“For instance the maternal morality is higher in African Americans, who have more hypertensive diseases,” she said. “When it comes to age, younger women hemorrhage rates are higher and with older women have cardio issues to deal with.”

According to the governor’s office, African American women are almost four times more likely nationally to die in childbirth than white women and three times more likely in New York. Allen said because Jamestown doesn’t have a large African American population, 4.6 percent according to the U.S. Census Bureau, UPMC Chautauqua doesn’t have a disparity in the number of African American women compared to white women when it comes to maternal death. However, she said because African Americans are more prone to hypertensive diseases, they are more at risk. She said social economic issues come into play as well.

When asked if Jamestown’s high poverty rate plays a role in maternal death, Allen said it isn’t necessary an issue of wealth, but of physician availability.

“We are a rural community. We have a shortage of physician. If someone is half an hour away from hospital and starts bleeding that will have an impact,” she said. “Another area where we’ve seen maternal mortality comes with mental health issues and higher substance abuse risk, which is a problem here.”

Allen said in the Jamestown area, whether or not a pregnant women has insurance doesn’t factor into maternal death.

“In our area, based on the system set up, any patient with any kind of insurance or no insurance will be seen,” she said. “Some women are not seeking it, don’t come in for care until they are about to have a baby.”

A women’s health always plays a role in maternal death, Allen said. She said some young women come into pregnancy who are obese and some are on medication because of mental health conditions.

“I don’t want to say that patents aren’t motivated. Maybe we aren’t getting the message out,” she said.

Allen said some advances in keeping pregnant women safe includes ultra sound technology to date the pregnancy, which is important early in the pregnancy. She said there are hospitals and referral centers they can contact to discuss with specialist in the field. She added knowing more about a patients risk factors by knowing genetic conditions and addressing them early in the pregnancy can help as well.

“I think it is important to look at risk factors. Obesity is a big risk. A C-section is a risk factor that continues to be high nationally. Age is an issue. We need more people to take their health seriously,” she said. “When looking at industrial nations, we have the highest (maternal mortality rate). Most hospitals, hopefully all, have developed protocols for maternal hemorrhage. We do drills, hemorrhage drills and preparatory things. On admission we have electronic records and risk factors are entered. We get alerts if they have a high hemorrhage risk or possible blood clot.”

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