Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data show that nearly 700 women die as a result of pregnancy or childbirth problems each year in the United States, while 50,000 suffer severe complications. Now, members of Congress are working to tackle the maternal mortality crisis at the federal level.
Last week, Congress voted unanimously voted to pass the “Preventing Maternal Mortality Act,” a bill authorizing $60 million over the next five years to curb the rate of women who die during delivery or within a year after. Statistics show the U.S. comes in dead last of all developed nations when it comes to maternal mortality.
According to NBC News, the bill will “fund maternal health review committees in all 50 states, enabling them to collect data on what is killing women during or after childbirth. Every task force will have to follow the same guidelines to receive the grants, which will provide uniformity to maternal mortality data collection across states for the first time.”
Dr. Lisa Hollier called the passage of the bill “an amazing first step.”
“Having high-quality data that is comparable across jurisdictions is going to be so very valuable to our prevention efforts,” said Hollier, president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “What I anticipate will be able to come from having better data is more specific solutions to address the problems that we’re seeing, and solutions that are designed to meet the need of the particular populations that are being served.”
Advocates are also hopeful the bill will help diminish racial disparities in maternal health. Black women are at a much higher risk of dying due to pregnancy-related complications — nearly four times more than white women. Research has shown that this rate persists even when Black women have more education and higher incomes, causing speculation that implicit bias by medical professionals may be a contributing factor.
Celebrities, including tennis star Serena Williams and singer Beyoncé, have come forward with harrowing stories about their complications during pregnancy. Rapper and reality star Remy Ma was recently rushed to a hospital for excessive bleeding days after delivering a baby girl.
“This is why what Congress did is so important,” said Texas Rep. Shawn Thierry, who almost died giving birth to her daughter in 2012. In 2017, Theirry sponsored a bill that would extend funding for the Texas Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force, which published a report earlier this year with 10 suggestions for lowering maternal mortality rates.
What the report found was that most of Texas’ maternal deaths were largely preventable. Theirry said this is likely the case in other states as well.
“In these emergency situations, there will be standard protocols that each hospital will follow, and that’s not happening right now,” she added. “It’s going to have a profound effect.”
The Preventing Maternal Mortality Act is now on President Donald Trump‘s desk awaiting his signature, which is expected later this week.