Today, the Louisiana Department of Health released a new report on maternal mortality in Louisiana. Maternal mortality is a pregnancy-related death occurring up to 42 days following the end of a pregnancy. The report includes recommendations made by an expert maternal mortality review committee to guide improvements in maternal health in Louisiana. 

According to the report, 47 confirmed maternal deaths occurring between 2011 and 2016 were pregnancy-related or due to causes directly related to pregnancy, producing a six-year mortality ratio of 12.4 deaths per 100,000 births in Louisiana. The report found that black women were four times more likely than white women to experience pregnancy-related death, consistent with national trends. 

“No woman should die because they want to be a mother,” said Dr. Rebekah Gee, secretary. “The Governor and the Louisiana Department of Health are doing everything we can to prevent pregnancy-related deaths by working with hospitals, doctors and community partners.”

The Louisiana Department of Health is responding to these findings in three important ways. First, the Louisiana Perinatal Quality Collaborative, consisting of 32 birth facilities in the state committed to change, launched its Reducing Maternal Morbidity Initiative on August 29. The Initiative will implement best practices to address hemorrhage and hypertension, two leading causes of maternal death identified in the report, while also focusing on reducing racial disparities in life-threatening complications related to these factors.

Second, the Louisiana Department of Health will implement Act 497 of the 2018 Legislative Session, creating the Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies Advisory Council, made up of experts and stakeholders who are committed to addressing racial and ethnic disparities in maternal health outcomes. The Council will support the Perinatal Quality Collaborative by incorporating a community-engaged approach to preventing maternal mortality and morbidity and will promote safe and equitable care for families in the state. 

Third, Louisiana’s Medicaid expansion provides health coverage to low-income adults of reproductive age during and following pregnancy, allowing for implementation of a number of key recommendations. Expansion allows access to community health workers, home visiting and other health care delivery reforms that can address factors impacting maternal health outside of the hospital. 

Additional recommendations made by the expert committee include:  
  • Build a more robust data collection and review process to implement quality improvement initiatives and evidence-based policies, including guidelines for conducting autopsy in event of a maternal death.
  • Support quality improvement activities in birth facilities including strategies to reduce racial bias.
  • Support health information exchanges and innovation to coordinate and improve obstetric, inpatient, outpatient and emergency care, and improve emergency room management of obstetric issues.
  • Expand health care coverage and coordination between primary, specialty, reproductive health and prenatal care, and facilitate integration with supportive services including management of mental health and substance use disorders.
  • Assure access to comprehensive reproductive health and contraceptive services; promote pregnancy readiness in women with chronic disease.

Click here to review the complete report.