Maternal death rates highest in Georgia, Augusta

Augusta leads with the highest rate in new mothers

Georgia suffers from a high infant mortality rate and is losing mothers at the highest rate, too, state officials said Friday. Moreover, rates in the Augusta area are the worst in the state, an Augusta Chronicle analysis found.

At the 5th Perinatal Health Symposium in Augus­ta, state officials said Georgia leads the nation in the maternal death rate, defined as death during pregnancy or the first year of the child’s life.

In 2011, there were 47 maternal deaths in Georgia, a rate of 35.5 per 100,000, compared with a national rate of 15.5 per 100,000 in 2008, according to data from the state and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“That should not be happening here in Georgia or anywhere in this country,” said Dr. Seema Csukas, the director of the Maternal and Child Health Section for the Georgia Department of Public Health.

In the 13-county East Central Health District that includes Augusta, there were six maternal deaths and a death rate of 93.3 per 100,000 in 2011, the highest among the 18 health districts in the state, according to the Chronicle analysis.

The district’s maternal death rate was more than 2.6 times the state rate and six times the national average, the analysis found.

The state has formed a task force to look into maternal deaths in 2012 and hopes to issue a report on the causes, Csukas said.

“We’ve never done a systematic review of those deaths to see what are the common causes,” she said. “That’s what we’re hoping to gain from this maternal mortality committee, is really
understanding what’s going on so we know what to do in terms of prevention.”

It could be a number of different things, said Dr. Theresa Chapple-McGruder, the director of the office of Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology.

“We’ve seen a high rate of cardiovascular deaths,” she said. “We do have a higher rate of domestic violence-related deaths in Georgia.”

A study published by a researcher at Georgia Regents University in 2011 found that the rates of suicide and homicide in that maternal period dwarfed other causes of death for women.

As part of a strategic plan for coming years, the state hopes to help promote “preconception” health for women of childbearing age as a way to also help lower Georgia’s high infant mortality rate, Csukas said.

“A healthy woman is going to have a healthy pregnancy, is going to have a healthy delivery,” she said. “So let’s not wait until they are pregnant to address women’s health. It needs to be addressed long before that.”

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