(WHTM) — Childbirth may be natural, but complications in the delivery room have cost lives. State lawmakers believe they have legislation to improve the mortality rate of new mothers.
Governor Shapiro signed a bill into law in July focused on collecting data. Lawmakers and advocates say having more information will help them create policies to tackle the problem.
“If it’s not measured, it’s not managed,” said Philadelphia Democrat Rep. Morgan Cephas.
Maternal mortality is a major issue for state lawmakers.
“Too many women are dying in childbirth as a result of underlying health reasons,” Berks County Democrat Sen. Judy Schwank said.
A law passed in July builds on the Maternal Mortality Review Act in 2018 and now requires the state Department of Health to publish maternal morbidity data — related to life-threatening pregnancy complications.
“We’re just expanding it to include morbidity, because for every maternal health death, there are 70 maternal morbidity cases,” Rep. Cephas said.
That includes data on underlying conditions and demographic information. Black women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women.
OBYN Dr. Sharee Livingston has seen these issues firsthand.
“What I have seen is that systemic racism, social determinants of health, inequities across the board are having a significant impact,” she said.
Livingston said it should not happen.
“Four out of five morbidity events are preventable,” she said.
So the question is, according to Schwank, “How can we stop those issues from happening? “
Schwank and Cephas championed this bill in the legislature. They say the data will help direct steps toward prevention.
“We then can begin developing policies that will address that specific issue,” Cephas said. “We’re not out of the woods, but we’re going in the right direction.”
Schwank added, “We don’t want moms dying, we want healthy babies, we want to give everybody a healthy start.”
Lawmakers said this is just one piece of addressing maternal health. Cephas said they have extended Medicaid coverage, put doulas — who help guide people through pregnancy — in correctional facilities and this year’s budget directs over $2 million towards the issue. Lawmakers said all of these steps can help.