Georgia is already known for its high rates of maternal mortality; the problem just got worse as the state’s number of maternal deaths went higher than several other metro areas.
Back in 2014, the rate of maternal mortality (on a national level) was 17 deaths per 100,000 live births. Meanwhile, in Georgia alone, that rate was 25.9 deaths per 100,000 live births for the same year.
Five years later, the state continues to struggle with the health issue while searching for answers as to why maternal deaths were increasing.
According to Georgia’s Maternal Mortality Review Committee, there were two possible main causes of maternal deaths — hypertension and hemorrhage. Also, based on the committee’s data analysis, 60% of the deaths reviewed were preventable; the problem was women lacked access to proper healthcare.
According to the center’s director, Dr. Jacob Warren, rural women (African-American) had a 30% higher maternal mortality rate than those in the urban area. In addition, white women in rural areas had a 50% higher risk than those in urban locations. Thus, being in rural areas meant more risk for pregnant women.
Dr. Warren added that rural Georgia was suffering from a lack of access to proper healthcare. In fact, 93 rural counties didn’t have a hospital with labor and delivery service while two-thirds of pregnant women would go outside their home county to give birth.
Other challenges faced by pregnant women in rural Georgia include transportation, insufficient support from organizations, and few government service locations. Nonetheless, their biggest dilemma was the closure of hospitals and birthing units in the area. Behind Texas and Tennessee, Georgia is one of the states with the highest rates of rural hospital closures.
In a briefing that was held in July — during the drafting of healthcare waiver proposals — it was revealed that since 2010, seven rural hospitals already shut down in Georgia. Currently, there are 26 facilities expected to close in the area. With such closures, obstetricians were threatened to go to urban areas for work; eventually, this would affect the overall healthcare services provided to rural women.
According to midwives, it’s now time for healthcare systems to take advantage of rural birth workers. They also said that people should not always rely on technology advances; Georgia already has the most advanced healthcare systems yet maternal mortality rates still get out of hand.
Midwives further argued that what birthing mothers truly need are women who already live in rural areas — women who are trained and skilled to conduct normal deliveries. When trained properly, these women can ensure that there would be better birth outcomes for mothers.
Now, midwives in Georgia are pushing the bill for the licensing and regulation of community midwives. Through the legislation, community midwives would be allowed to handle low-risk pregnancies and labors. However, in cases of birthing abnormalities, midwives should recommend medical attention immediately.