'Extremely alarming': New report addresses maternal mortality in the U.S.

Dr. Taraneh Shirazian of Global Women's Health discusses the need for addressing high mortality rates of pregnant women across the globe.
Image: Pregnant woman
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By Halley Bondy

While maternal mortality rates have decreased around the world, new findings show that they are increasing in the U.S., particularly for black women.

Roughly 700 American women die each year due to pregnancy or childbirth complications, according to the Center for Disease Control. Various groups are trying to get to bottom of the crisis, including The Journal of Maternal-Fetal & Neonatal Medicine, which compiled a new study based on documented findings in New York State in the last two decades.

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The study found that women’s mortality rates have not decreased in New York despite concerted efforts. One of the study’s authors, Dr. Taraneh Shirazian, spoke with “Morning Joe First Look” co-hosts Yasmin Vossoughian and Ayman Mohyeldin about the findings.

“What we found was that hospitals are doing some programs to reduce maternal mortality, and there are programs being done in the community as well, but they’re not being linked up,” said Shirazian, who works as director of Global Women’s Health at NYU’s College of Global Public Health. “They’re not offering us the maximum benefits in terms of reduction in New York…maternal mortality rates have not decreased.”

Black women are dying at a 12 percent higher rate than women in New York, according to the study.

“It’s extremely alarming,” said Shirazian. “We actually learned that most of the women who died had received no prenatal care. These women who are underserved in the city are not seeing their physicians for multiple reasons…in a city where we have so many resources.”

Shirazian serves as president of Saving Mothers, a non-profit organization dedicated to eradicating maternal deaths around the world. Shirazian argued that more education, accountability and access to resources are necessary to reduce the numbers globally and locally. She argued that existing programs like The New York State Doula Pilot Program – which reimburses patients for some doula services – are not enough.

“There is a big push to have more doula services,” Shirazian said. “That’s great but it needs to be paired with education…Having more doulas is wonderful, but how do we measure it?”

According to Saving Mothers 75 percent of maternal deaths worldwide could be prevented with low-cost intervention.