maternal mortality | KERA News

maternal mortality

Samantha Blackwell was working her way through a master's degree at Cleveland State University when she found out she was pregnant.

"I was 25, in really good health. I had been an athlete all my life. I threw shot put for my college, so I was in my prime," she says with a laugh.

This story was co-published with ProPublica.

Doctors would see new mothers sooner and more frequently, and insurers would cover the increased visits, under sweeping new recommendations from the organization that sets standards of care for obstetrician-gynecologists in the U.S.

State researchers say a majority of maternal deaths reported in Texas in 2012 were coded incorrectly.

According to a study published Monday in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, researchers were able to confirm just 56 out of 147 obstetric deaths that year – that is, deaths occurring within 42 days of childbirth. 

Some of the state’s leading physicians vetted ideas this weekend to reduce the deaths of women while pregnant or shortly after giving birth.

Part 3 of a three-part series.

As Texas looks to reduce its maternal mortality rate, there is one aspect of the crisis that is going to be harder to solve: Black women are more likely to die while pregnant or after giving birth than women from other racial or ethnic groups.

Part 2 of a three-part series.

Texas officials have been slow to respond to the state's maternal mortality crisis.

In the last year, lawmakers have passed legislation aimed at improving death certificate data, and they extended the life of a task force investigating why mothers are dying. But advocates are pushing state health officials to do more.

Part 1 of a three-part series.

An alarming number of women die while pregnant or shortly after giving birth in Texas. According to national researchers who say the U.S. as a whole has a serious problem, Texas is an “outlier” when it comes to its high rate of maternal deaths.

GABRIEL CRISToVER PeREZ / KUT

In Texas, mothers are dying — and lawmakers and public health officials are trying to figure out why.

Texas is over-reporting some of its maternal mortality data, a national study released today found.

The study, from the University of Maryland Population Research Center and published in the journal Birth, is a follow-up to a study released in August 2016 that found the maternal mortality rate in Texas had doubled in a two-year period.

Leah Bahrencu's kidneys and liver shut down. Samantha Blackwell spent a month in a coma. Cindel Pena suffered heart failure. Heather Lavender lost her uterus.

Editor's note: This story contains language that may be offensive.

In February 2009, Samantha Pierce became pregnant with twins. It was a time when things were going really well in her life.

She and her husband had recently gotten married. They had good jobs.

"I was a kick-ass community organizer," says Pierce, who is African-American and lives in Cleveland. She worked for a nonprofit that fought against predatory lending. The organization was growing, and Pierce had been promoted to management.

On a melancholy Saturday this past February, Shalon Irving's "village" — the friends and family she had assembled to support her as a single mother — gathered at a funeral home in a prosperous black neighborhood in southwest Atlanta to say goodbye.

House lawmakers tentatively approved a series of bills Monday aimed at helping Texas curb its unusually high rate of women dying less than a year after childbirth.

Health advocates were hoping lawmakers would seriously tackle the issue of maternal mortality during the legislative session that ended Monday. But legislative efforts fell short.

The end of this year’s legislative session is a little more than a week away, and health advocates say lawmakers are missing an opportunity to deal with a public health crisis in the state.

Last year, researchers reported a sharp spike between 2010 and 2012 in the number of women in Texas who died while pregnant or soon after giving birth, but they don’t know why.

A statewide task force ran into some issues getting good information last year when it was asked to write a report on why so many women in Texas were dying during pregnancy or shortly after.

In fact, these issues were a big part of the report it finally released to lawmakers. Now, state lawmakers are looking at ways to fix the problems.