New Law to Solve Pregnancy-Related Deaths

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More and more Indiana women are dying from pregnancy-related issues.

State lawmakers are trying to figure out why.

Angela Lyttle, a certified nurse midwife and a co-owner of Sacred Roots Midwifery and Birth Center, said Indiana’s maternal mortality rate is double the national average.

Sacred Roots personnel stressed it is important that women visit a care provider when they begin thinking about getting pregnant so they are healthy from the start.

“Are there heart issues that are causing a problem? Diabetes? Just other health issues that we have as a population that certainly play a role in maternal care?” Lyttle asked.

“Most recently, the data I’ve seen is from 2011, our current maternal mortality rate is 51.3 maternal deaths per 100,000 women.”

Keristal Hansell, a prenatal clinical nurse specialist at the birth center, said, “Death has always been a potential outcome of childbirth, but it’s very rare, even in places where the rate is higher.”

Indiana’s maternal mortality rate was why Gov. Eric Holcomb signed a bill into law in recent weeks. The law takes effect July 1 and mandates the state create a maternal mortality review committee that lasts until 2023.

Hansell said that the new law “allows a group of well-educated people, who this is their business, it’s everything we do and know, to come together, review those cases together in a very nonpunitive way to say, ‘What can we all do to make it better?'” 

State Sen. Jean Leising, a Republican from Oldenburg, authored the legislation.

“It’s an important issue,” Leising said Wednesday. “It’s a shocking issue that Indiana’s statistics are as bad as they are. I think we’re on the right track to trying to figure out why.”

She added, “That’s the purpose of the bill. Hopefully, we can get enough information over the next five years.”

Leising said she also hopes health care providers will be helped by the new law. The new law sets up an immunity for the agencies reporting deaths to the committee.

“To give doctors and hospitals, to give the opportunity to speak freely about what they think happened when they have a bad outcome,” Leising said.

The committee will review cases, create a prevention strategy and work to figure root causes of pregnancy-related deaths.

Sarah Cline understands. She gave birth to a healthy boy in January, but there were bits of fear with her daughter’s birth two years ago.

“When my daughter was born, I had severe pre-eclampsia,” a pregnancy complication that can cause high blood pressure and damage to the liver, kidneys or other organs, Cline said. “There were certainly risks because it came on all of a sudden. I had a little bit of fear with her, of what that looked like. I was fortunate to have great care.”

The new mother and the Sacred Roots center’s owners said they believe the new law will help women across Indiana.

Cline said, “I think this new law could help calm fears. I think it’s Indiana showing we care.”

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