Georgia Has Highest Maternal Death Rates; Becomes Focus of New Project

September 12, 2014

Georgia currently leads as the state with the most maternal death rates, and many of the deaths could have been prevented, according to studies by public officials.  As a result, it has been chosen as a part of a $500 million research project that hopes to reduce the rate of maternal deaths throughout the world.

Because of the high amount of maternal deaths in Georgia, it was chosen to be part of the study and project that aims to understand the causes more and reduce maternal deaths across hospitals not only in the United States, but throughout numerous countries. The project was launched by the The Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) earlier this year . Along with Georgia, the state of New Jersey was also chosen to participate in the study.

Although the entire nation has seen a rise in maternal deaths, Georgia has seen the largest increase, going from 20.5 maternal deaths per 1,000 live infant births from 2001-2006, to 35 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2011.

According to AWHONN, over half of these maternal deaths could have been prevented with better treatment practices. For example, obstetric hemorrhage heightens the risk of maternal mortality, and inducing labor increases the risk of hemorrhaging. Labor induction is greatly overused, according to research, and by reducing the amount of times it occurs, many lives can be saved.

Merck for Mothers provided a $500 million grant for the 10-year study, which aims to prevent maternal deaths not only in the United States, but in over 30 additional countries.

Some experts are surprised maternal deaths remain so high, given the new, cutting-edge technology available now. Lashea Wattie, a clinical nurse at Marietta, Georgia’s Wellstar Kennestone Hospital, states that although there is an array of innovative medical technology, women in the United States are dying from postpartum hemorrhaging more so than women in any other country.

“You would think it would be decreasing. That’s why we’re stepping in to do something about it,” said Wattie, who has joined AWHONN to help with the maternal deaths in Georgia.

Another reason that pregnant women are dying in the United States stems back to health issues. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chronic heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension may place women at a heightened risk of maternal death.

The CDC also suggests that the higher rate of maternal deaths may reflect the fact that new, computerized data makes it easier to keep track of deaths, including the states in which each death occurs.

Some of the goals in the study include identifying women who are at high-risk for hemorrhaging, improving the medical response to these women, and spreading overall awareness about the risk of the condition throughout the medical community.