San Antonio women fighting to lower Texas' soaring maternal mortality rate

Texas has highest rates in country; risk is 4 times higher for black women

SAN ANTONIO – There is a long list of causes that lead to maternal mortality, women dying within a year of giving birth.

Those deaths are reported to be higher in Texas than anywhere else in the U.S and many other developed countries. Some women are at higher risk than others.

Local community members are now making a joint effort to dig into the issue together and help keep new moms alive.

Registered nurse Ashley Green's youngest daughter is almost 3.

"It's taken me this long to become able to speak about it, because it was so traumatic," she said.

"It" being the situation that almost made her a maternal mortality statistic. Three days after giving birth, she had trouble breathing, severe abdominal pain, high blood pressure and extreme headaches.

"It wasn't until my fourth visit to the ER when I was finally listened to and properly assessed by my physician and I was diagnosed with postpartum eclampsia but by then I was already in heart failure," she said.

Postpartum eclampsia is a rare condition that occurs when a woman has high blood pressure and excess protein in her urine soon after childbirth. It can lead to seizures and other serious conditions. It took Green six months to physically recover.

Now she's not only advocating for moms and teaching them what to look out for, but she's also trying to strengthen the medical community's understanding of maternal mortality.

"So we can better our craft as health care professionals and hopefully bridge the gap - and figure out why the maternal mortality rates are so high," Green said.



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An article in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology showed that in 2010 the rate in Texas was 18.3 deaths for every 100,000 births. By 2015, that jumped 87 percent, to 34.2 deaths. The numbers are extreme in comparison to other countries' statistics listed by the World Health Organization: Italy (2.1 deaths per 100,000 live births), Japan (3.3) and France (5.5).

Black women are four times more likely than white women to die from maternal mortality. 

"I think that's something as a biracial woman myself that heavily needs to be researched, advocated for, and figured out

That was the main topic during Metro Health's community discussion and panel Tuesday evening. It brought up awareness, education, and resources for women at the highest risk.

"I often look back at my experience and I wonder if I wasn't a registered nurse and I didn't know the signs to look for and to know how to advocate for myself, where would I be today?

That thought fuels her fight for other moms. She helped co-found an organization called Latched, where she and other nurses reach out to women in the community without transportation to help them continue breast-feeding. She also is able to teach many of these women about postpartum health issues. 

Green said there are many resources in the San Antonio area for postpartum women, that moms either don't know about or aren't able to access. She and many other women locally want to bridge that gap and save lives. 

Last year Texas passed several laws pushing its task force to continue research on how to cut down on these numbers.  That includes looking into what other states are doing to bring down rates as well as studying health disparities and socioeconomic status of these mothers. 

Women who went to Tuesday's discussion would like to see more emphasis and research on the higher death rates of black mothers in America.

See more statistics on Texas' maternal mortality rate

About the Author:

Courtney Friedman anchors KSAT’s weekend evening shows and reports during the week. Her ongoing Loving in Fear series confronts Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She joined KSAT in 2014 and is proud to call the SA and South Texas community home. She came to San Antonio from KYTX CBS 19 in Tyler, where she also anchored & reported.