Deaths from pregnancy complications have become more common in Mississippi, and racial disparities in the health of parturients have increased in recent years, according to a report released on Thursday by the state health department.
The Mississippi Maternal Mortality Report shows that the maternal mortality rate increased by 8.8% between 2013-2016 and 2017-2019, the latter being the last period analyzed by the researchers.
The rate for non-Hispanic black women was four times higher than for non-Hispanic white women. Meanwhile, the rate rose 25% in black women, while it fell 14% in white women. 87.5% of maternal deaths directly related to pregnancy were considered preventable.
The bleak numbers come as the state expects more births each year as a result of last summer’s US Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade Act of 1973, which provided constitutional protections for abortion nationwide.
The court used the Mississippi case to set aside the case, a legal effort that state leaders welcomed.
The Republican-controlled Mississippi legislature is debating whether to extend Medicaid coverage from 60 days to a year after childbirth, a policy advocated by state health official Dr. Dan Edney and a few other guides.
“It is imperative that we look after our most vulnerable populations now,” Edney said in a statement Thursday. “This is the only way to remove Mississippi’s health from the bottom of the chart.”
Delbert Haussmann also supported expanding postpartum coverage, a position that puts him at odds with fellow Republican Prime Minister Philip Gunn.
Senators voted to extend it last year, but it was defeated in the House by opposition from Jean. That year, the spokesman said he would only support it if he had support from the state department of Medicaid.
To compile the report released Thursday, a panel of doctors and nurses reviewed 93 deaths, 40 of which were pregnancy-related. It found that 42.5% of identified maternal deaths occurred more than 60 days but less than a year after delivery.
Additionally, the panel found that 82.5% of women who died from pregnancy complications between 2017 and 2019 were Medicaid recipients.
According to the report, most deaths among Black and non-Hispanic mothers are attributed to cardiovascular disease. Edney said increasing access to healthy foods could reduce the prevalence of health problems that lead to cardiovascular disease.
Supporters of the Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable, an advocacy group, rallied on Capitol Hill to urge lawmakers to expand postpartum coverage.