Pregnancy comes with a lot of fears and anxieties. Chief among them: How much weight will I gain? Can I withstand a natural birth? Will I need an episiotomy? In these modern times, however, few U.S. moms-to-be worry about actually dying during pregnancy or labor.
In the early 20th century, there were close to 900 maternal deaths per 100,000 births. With medical advances, that number was on a steady decline for decades, and nearly eradicated by the 1990s.
However, in a recent study, scientists were alarmed to find that the number of women dying during pregnancy and childbirth has increased in the United States, and Texas has experienced the biggest jump of all. From 2010 to 2014, the number of women dying of pregnancy in the Lone Star State has almost doubled, with more than 600 deaths. Most startling is that no one knows why, according to a study to be published in the September issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
It’s certainly not for lack of trying to figure it out. In developed countries, the maternal death rate is 12 per 100,000 live births and Texas is frighteningly high above that. A state agency task force has been researching the deaths for three years and national researchers have also been looking into the problem, but neither has released any helpful findings.
That’s especially worrisome to Texas women who are pregnant or planning to be. So far, the researchers are reviewing cases of women who died of severe complications such as heart disease, infection, bleeding and high blood pressure.
Experts note that the rise in deaths coincides with large budget cuts in Texas, which may have affected health care and family budgets. In fact, Sarah Wheat, a local spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas noted that many clinics were closed down, hampering much needed medical and prenatal care for some of the states neediest women.
“Chances are they’re going to have a harder time finding somewhere to go to get that first appointment,” she said. “They may be delayed in getting that initial pregnancy test and then a prenatal referral.”
Still, officials haven’t announced an official link to the deaths and budget cuts. Until findings are revealed, would-be mothers are left in the dark, not knowing if a particular behavior is putting them at risk or how to avoid it.