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Lawmakers beginning to scrutinize maternal deaths, complications

Expecting parents have an assumption that the medical professionals attending them are capable of managing their care and ensuring a healthy birth for the infant and mother. While this is usually true, too often this isn’t the case.

Research conducted by National Public Radio and ProPublica last year showed that an increasing number of new mothers experienced dangerous and life-threatening complications, which left physical, emotional and psychological scars. In addition to rising complications, they found 700 to 900 women die due to pregnancy- or birth-related causes each year.

These statistics have caught the attention of lawmakers in states and local communities across the country, who are adopting bipartisan bills to reform how maternal deaths are identified and investigated. Bills have been passed and signed, or are awaiting signature, in Indiana, Oregon and Washington, D.C. There are also proposals pending in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maryland and New Jersey.

Illinois ahead of the curve in maternal review

Illinois is ahead of much of the country in this area. The state already has a Maternal Mortality Review Committee (MMRC), a sub-committee of the Perinatal Advisory Committee (PAC), that meets quarterly to review maternal deaths that occurred during pregnancy hospital admissions.

The MMRC developed the Obstetric Hemorrhage Education Project of 2008 (OHEP) due to its findings, which helped lower the state’s maternal hemorrhage rates dramatically. When the MMRC found rates began increasing again in 2016, they updated OHEP.

The PAC also has a sub-committee on Severe Maternal Morbidity that reviews cases where women deliver a baby and either need 4 pints of blood or have to be admitted to the intensive care unit unexpectedly. The Maternal Mortality Review Committee-Violence (MMRC-V) also reviews cases of maternal deaths that occur within 365 days after a pregnancy.

Other states could stand to follow Illinois’s lead. While reviewing maternal mortality is important, the sub-committees in Illinois are also equipped to investigate maternal life-threatening complications and injuries, which are also on the rise.

Determining what happens when a mother experiences a serious injury or death during childbirth is important, especially if a pattern of negligence among medical professionals is the problem. DIscovering the negligence of a third party gives families the right to pursue legal action on behalf of their loved one.