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Legislators Seek to Curb Rise in Maternal Deaths

RALEIGH, N.C. – The American Academy of Physicians and other groups are continuing to press Congress to pass two bills aimed at reducing the nation’s high maternal death rate. The U.S. continues to rank one of the most dangerous countries in the developed world to give birth, especially for women of color.

Monifa Bandele, senior vice president of Moms Rising, said medical biases often mean black women’s concerns during and after pregnancy are ignored.

“Too often, women, and especially black women, are in the hospital or they’re with the health-care provider, and the things that they’re raising, they are considered to be hysterical, their concerns aren’t being taken seriously, medically seriously,” Bandele said.

Legislators have introduced two bills, the Maternal Health Quality Improvement Act and the Helping Medicaid Offer Maternity Services Act, that, if passed, would help close the racial bias gap and extend Medicaid coverage to new moms for up to 1 year.

According to the nonprofit organization NC Child, 1 in 5 women of reproductive age in North Carolina is uninsured. Bandele said health-care access for new moms following delivery is critical.

“Right now, in many states, Medicaid, once a woman gives birth, will continue to cover the child, but the mom drops off within weeks,” she said. “One of the big causes of death is postpartum hemorrhaging. And so, if you’re not able to get your follow-up and see the doctor, then you are at risk of experiencing complications post-delivery.”

Bandele also pointed out that reforming how hospitals and other health-care providers view and interact with pregnant women of color may be the most difficult obstacle to overcome. But she said the Maternal Health Quality Improvement Act could be a start.

“That’s a step in the right direction,” she said. “But it always remains to be seen how well these things will be implemented and how strong the accountability measures will be to the outcomes the hospital will have to show.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 700 women die each year in the United States from complications during pregnancy or delivery.

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