The rate of pregnancy-related mortality in the United States is on the rise, with the state of Georgia having almost twice the national rate.
Why is this?
In this article, we’ll examine the various factors contributing to maternal mortality in Georgia, including socioeconomic factors, chronic health conditions, provider shortages, and racial disparities. We’ll also discuss the solution and how you can be a part of it.
Socioeconomic disparities, including poverty, limited access to healthcare, and inadequate prenatal care, can have a significant impact on maternal health outcomes.
Limited access to quality healthcare, particularly in rural areas, can contribute to delays in receiving appropriate prenatal care and emergency obstetric services, increasing the risk of maternal complications and mortality.
In Georgia, 17.5% of the population of lives in poverty.
Chronic Health Conditions
Pre-existing health conditions such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes, or cardiovascular diseases can increase the risk of complications during pregnancy, leading to higher mortality rates. Research shows an increasing rate of chronic health conditions among pregnant women in the U.S. Such problems create a higher risk of complications during pregnancy or within the first year following delivery.
According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, many fatalities occur in the months following childbirth, due to such factors such as high blood pressure, cardiac conditions, and postpartum depression.
However, a 2019 report conducted by the Georgia Maternal Mortality Review Committee showed that the majority of pregnancy-related deaths that occurred between 2012-2014 were considered preventable.
A shortage of healthcare providers, including obstetricians and midwives, can result in limited access to timely and quality prenatal care that is crucial for detecting and managing potential risks during pregnancy.
In 2017-2018, 76 out of 159 of Georgia’s counties did not have any obstetrics/gynecological providers. As the March of Dimes Maternity Care Deserts Report stated, nearly 40% of the state’s counties are considered “maternity care deserts”—where access to maternity health care is limited or absent. Over the last several decades, hospital labor and delivery units have been shutting down across the state, particularly in rural areas. That means greater distance to travel for health care, which is associated with worse birth outcomes.
As Dr. Marlo Vernon (an assistant professor in the Georgia Cancer Center) said, “Not only do you have to take time off from work, you have to have transportation, you have to find someone to watch your other children and you have to wait at the doctor’s office for an extended period of time,” she stated. “A lot of women just don’t have the freedom to do that, so they don’t make their appointments within the recommended time and, of course, that contributes to missing developing problems in their pregnancies. The truth is, women who start prenatal care later tend to have worse outcomes.”
There is evidence of racial disparities in maternal mortality rates, with higher rates among African American women compared to other racial and ethnic groups.
The ratio of pregnancy-related fatalities for Black women in Georgia is 47 deaths per 100,000 live births, as opposed to 14.3 deaths per 100,000 live births for white women. That means that Black women in Georgia are 3.3 times more likely to die from complications related to pregnancy than white women living there.
Approximately 20% of all Blacks and Hispanics in Georgia live in poverty, compared to 8% of whites.
23% of Black women and 49% of Hispanic women in Georgia report not having a personal doctor or health care provider. Furthermore, one in five Black women and one in four Hispanic women also report not seeing a doctor in the past year due to cost. Between 2014-2016, 11% of Black mothers received little to no prenatal care.
Addressing socioeconomic factors and racial disparities is crucial to improving maternal health outcomes. There are community-led organizations that work to help confront these issues.
Here at Sheltering Grace Ministry, we work to address these root issues of pregnancy-related mortality with a specific focus on the most vulnerable population of pregnant women who are also experiencing homelessness.
You can form part of this solution by supporting our work.
For only $10/month, you can #Be1of5000 and help to make a difference—perhaps even save a life.