As you may have seen in the media this week, a new analysis shows that our state's rate of maternal deaths for 2012 is lower than previously reported. After the state health department used an enhanced method to confirm maternal deaths — including data matching and individual case reviews — the study found there were a number of reporting errors and some cases where there wasn't enough information to confirm a pregnancy-related death.
The new data confirm that Texas still has a maternal mortality problem, although it no longer appears that the Texas rate is among the worst in the country. Texas' rate of maternal deaths during and up to 42 days after pregnancy is still worse than many other states and many developing countries.
Although new mothers of all backgrounds died, the data also confirm that Black women face the highest risk.
Additionally, the study underscores that we need the state's Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force to continue its efforts to analyze the state's data across multiple sources and map out next steps for the state.
It's important to note two points about the limitations of the new data:
- The study focuses on maternal deaths. It does not include the high number of severe pregnancy complications that have devastating consequences for Texas mothers and families. Maternal mortality is just the tip of the iceberg. Severe pregnancy complications are about 50 times more common.
- While the study sheds important light on deaths during and up to 42 days after pregnancy, the state's Task Force has looked at pregnancy-related deaths and complications that occur up to a year postpartum. As the following chart from the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) shows, some of the most dangerous times for new moms is actually after that period and throughout the year after giving birth.
DSHS Confirmed Maternal Deaths by Timing and Cause of Death, 2012-2015
We must continue to work with a sense of urgency to keep Texas moms safe and healthy and ensure that more Texas babies are healthy. We look forward to continuing to work with you on these efforts.