Mississippi's Maternal Health Crisis Exposed: 80% of Deaths Could Have Been Stopped

Mississippi has the worst rate of maternal death in the US, yet most pregnancy-related deaths were avoidable, according to a recent state analysis.

The Mississippi Maternal Mortality Review Committee (MMRC) was formed by the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) to compile a report that examined deaths that occurred between 2016 and 2020.

The MMRC was created based on well-known review committees across the country, with assistance from the Division of Reproductive Health of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There are representatives from a wide variety of medical disciplines and nursing specialties on the independent committee.

Since its founding in 2017, the Mississippi Maternal Death Review (MMRC) has examined maternal fatalities in the state to identify areas for improvement and offer suggestions for averting more deaths.

Per the research, there were 167 pregnancy-related deaths between 2016 and 2020. 39% of those deaths, or about 65, had a pregnancy-related cause. According to MMRC, 80% or at least 52 of the deaths could have been avoided.

According to data from the MRCC, women between the ages of 35 and 39 had the greatest pregnancy-related death rate (81.5 per 100,000 live births) between 2016 and 2020. Of those deaths, women who were pregnant 43 days to a year after becoming pregnant accounted for about 43%. Mississippi had an even greater percentage of maternal mortality, according to data from 2021.

The greatest maternal death rate in the country, according to USA Facts, was 82.5 per 100,000 live births.

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According to the MRCC report, the leading causes of maternal mortality include hypertension and cardiovascular disease. However, racial disparities, substance misuse, violence, suicide, and mental illness were all frequent causes of pregnancy-related deaths.

Pregnancy-related deaths among non-Hispanic Black women were four times greater in 2020 than in White women.

The committee suggested the following actions to enhance these results:

  • In order to keep rural hospitals operating and provide access to telehealth services, Medicaid expansion should be included.
  • Particularly in the most vulnerable sections of the state, the research highlighted the need for rural healthcare facilities to have access to life-saving equipment, attract and retain sufficient professionals, and offer higher levels of critical care.
  • Increase the number of pregnant women and families who use telehealth services in remote areas so they can more easily access specialists in maternal and fetal medicine.
  • Interaction amongst all healthcare professionals attending to the same patient at the same time. Providers of mental health services must to be prepared to manage all referrals from other providers and kept informed about developments in the field (where appropriate).
  • There should be education and/or awareness on urgent maternal warning indicators for all healthcare providers.
  • To ensure that women have the time to recuperate before going back to work after giving birth, they should be granted a sufficient length of paid maternity leave.
  • Early warning indications for mothers should be explained to patients and their families.


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