Maternal Mortality

Spencer Selvidge for KUT

Texas still has a lot of work to do to improve how it tracks deaths in the state, public health experts say.

Death certificates "give us snapshots of the health of the community and really helps us with our public health and health care priorities,” Dr. Umair Shah, executive director of Harris County Public Health, said.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

When lawmakers ended this year’s legislative session, they had addressed their biggest goals: They tamped down property taxes, overhauled school finance laws and gave teachers a pay raise. By various measures, the session was a success.

To health care advocates in the state, however, it was a missed opportunity.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Race and geography are good predictors of whether a woman in Texas will have a severe complication during childbirth, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler studied public hospital records submitted to the state from 2011 to 2016 for instances of severe maternal morbidity, which are complications that could almost kill a woman who is giving birth that include heart attacks, severe bleeding, eclampsia and blood clots, among other things.

Julia Reihs/KUT

Texas has a thing about being number one. But when it comes to the state of Texans' health, it ranks below the middle of the pack, and it's falling. The United Health Foundation ranked Texas 34th in the country in its 2017 annual report. But there's something that could help: this year's Healthier Texas Summit kicks off in Austin on Oct. 25; it's a conference about how everyday people can achieve healthier outcomes in their own community.

Dr. David Lakey is vice chancellor for health affairs at the University of Texas System, and is also an organizer of the event. Lakey says while the overall focus of the summit is how to improve health within our communities, there's also a focus on health policy in the upcoming legislative session.

When Cayti Kane delivered a baby boy via cesarean section last year, her team of doctors was prepared.

Kane had been diagnosed with placenta accreta, a condition that increased the likelihood of a dangerous hemorrhage during delivery. When that happened, she had an emergency hysterectomy. Kane and her son went home healthy.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

A group of students at Rice University embarked on a trip to Austin last spring to study maternal mortality in Texas. The students say health disparities and social justice issues are at the core of why some women are dying while pregnant or shortly after giving birth.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Texans think the Legislature should expand Medicaid to more low-income people and make health care more affordable, according to a survey released today from the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Episcopal Health Foundation.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Two-thirds of Texas hospitals offering maternity services are taking part in a statewide initiative aimed at reducing maternal mortality.

Samantha Blackwell was working her way through a master's degree at Cleveland State University when she found out she was pregnant.

"I was 25, in really good health. I had been an athlete all my life. I threw shot put for my college, so I was in my prime," she says with a laugh.

Though it wasn't planned, Blackwell's pregnancy was embraced by her large and loving family and her boyfriend, who would soon become her husband. Her labor was quick, and she gave birth to a healthy baby boy.

This story was co-published with ProPublica.

Doctors would see new mothers sooner and more frequently, and insurers would cover the increased visits, under sweeping new recommendations from the organization that sets standards of care for obstetrician-gynecologists in the U.S.

Lynda Gonzalez for KUT

State researchers say a majority of maternal deaths reported in Texas in 2012 were coded incorrectly.

According to a study published Monday in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, researchers were able to confirm just 56 out of 147 obstetric deaths that year – that is, deaths occurring within 42 days of childbirth. 

Julia Reihs / KUT

Travis County doesn’t have to wait to address racial disparities in maternal mortality, a group of mothers, health care professionals, policymakers and community leaders said yesterday during a summit at Huston-Tillotson University.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

Some of the state’s leading physicians vetted ideas this weekend to reduce the deaths of women while pregnant or shortly after giving birth.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

This is a final note to a three-part series on maternal deaths in Texas.

Some of you might have noticed our series on Texas’ maternal mortality crisis this week didn't address the possibility of expanding access to health care in Texas – or how expansion impacted California's crisis. There are some reasons for that.

We looked at California’s successful effort to reduce maternal mortality in the state, and how Texas could possibly replicate that model to save lives. When it’s come up in the past, public health advocates typically point to the fact that Texas has the highest rate and number of uninsured people in the country – many of who are, of course, women.

Christie Hemm Klok for KUT

Part 3 of a three-part series.

As Texas looks to reduce its maternal mortality rate, there is one aspect of the crisis that is going to be harder to solve: Black women are more likely to die while pregnant or after giving birth than women from other racial or ethnic groups.

Lynda Gonzalez for KUT

Part 2 of a three-part series.

Texas officials have been slow to respond to the state's maternal mortality crisis.

In the last year, lawmakers have passed legislation aimed at improving death certificate data, and they extended the life of a task force investigating why mothers are dying. But advocates are pushing state health officials to do more.

Lynda Gonzalez for KUT

Part 1 of a three-part series.

An alarming number of women die while pregnant or shortly after giving birth in Texas. According to national researchers who say the U.S. as a whole has a serious problem, Texas is an “outlier” when it comes to its high rate of maternal deaths.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT

Texas is over-reporting some of its maternal mortality data, a national study released today found.

The study, from the University of Maryland Population Research Center and published in the journal Birth, is a follow-up to a study released in August 2016 that found the maternal mortality rate in Texas had doubled in a two-year period.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Update (Aug. 1) –  The Texas House passed House Bills 9, 10, 11 and 28 unanimously, which collectively seek to increase state health reporting requirements on pregnancy-related deaths, as well as expand the state's task force on maternal mortality.

Bas Silderhuis

State senators on Monday tentatively approved a bill that would give a state task force more time to study why an alarming number of Texas mothers are dying less than a year after childbirth.

Martin do Nascimento / KUT

Health advocates were hoping lawmakers would seriously tackle the issue of maternal mortality during the legislative session that ended Monday. But legislative efforts fell short.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

The end of this year’s legislative session is a little more than a week away, and health advocates say lawmakers are missing an opportunity to deal with a public health crisis in the state.

Last year, researchers reported a sharp spike between 2010 and 2012 in the number of women in Texas who died while pregnant or soon after giving birth, but they don’t know why.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr.

A statewide task force ran into some issues getting good information last year when it was asked to write a report on why so many women in Texas were dying during pregnancy or shortly after.

In fact, these issues were a big part of the report it finally released to lawmakers. Now, state lawmakers are looking at ways to fix the problems.

Philippe Put

Every Texas legislator should know by now that more mothers are dying less than a year after giving birth. At least that’s what Lisa Hollier believes.

Miguel Gutierrez, Jr. / KUT

Bill Gravell keeps a pair of camouflage boots in the backseat of his white pickup truck. They've been through pastures and farmlands, in the middle of plane and train crashes, he says.

Once, Gravell didn't chance to change out of dress shoes on his way to a body and ended up ruining those shoes. Now, he makes ready at a moment's notice.


Callie Richmond / Texas Tribune

Two recent reports about maternal health in Texas had the same conclusion: pregnancy-related deaths are on the rise.

No one really knows why, though. Researchers outside of Texas are stumped and even a state task force looking into maternal mortality doesn’t have definitive answers.