Improving Georgia’s Maternal Health

August 10th, 2021 | 3 min read

GA Maternal Health

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Georgia is one of the most dangerous states in America for a pregnant woman, and mothers face the greatest percentage of pregnancy and postpartum health risks. Georgia’s maternal death rate for white women is twice that of the national rate, and Black women are twice as likely as their Caucasian counterparts to face maternal death. A major factor contributing to this unacceptable disparity is the lack of providers who come from and reside in communities of color.

The staggering statistics don’t end there. According to the ACLU, at least 70 counties in the state have no obstetrics and gynecology physicians, a vital healthcare resource for all women, especially pregnant and postpartum mothers, and 40% of all labor and delivery facilities in Georgia have closed over the last 20 years, as shared by Georgia Health News.

Research on the topic of postpartum mortality began in 2014 when Georgia established a Maternal Mortality Review Committee. The committee found that between 2012 and 2014, 101 mothers died from pregnancy-related causes, and of those fatalities, about 60 percent of the deaths were avoidable. The leading causes of pregnancy-related deaths in the state involve cardiovascular conditions, pulmonary embolism, preeclampsia, eclampsia and many others. It’s important to note that many of the fatalities do not happen during childbirth, but rather in the months after due to factors like postpartum depression and cardiac conditions, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.

Exacerbating this issue is that many of the state’s low-income areas do not have sufficient funding for proper women’s healthcare. Rural women in Georgia have a significantly higher mortality rate than in urban Georgia, and rural Black women have double the maternal mortality rate of rural white women. Rural residents face disparities associated with transportation, supportive organizations and available social services, leading to insufficient and dramatically different prenatal and postpartum care.

In an effort to improve these statistics, it’s imperative that we further understand the causes of maternal death, increase awareness of the issues surrounding maternal mortality and advocate for change in our local communities and at the state-level. In Georgia’s latest report on Medicaid quality, the state’s Medicaid agency says it aims to decrease maternal mortality rates by 3% by the end of 2023, improve Georgia’s prenatal and postpartum care to the national 50th percentile rate and lower the state’s rate of low-birth-weight infant deliveries.

There is an immediate and dire need for programs to support women who are most at-risk for maternal mortality, for new models of maternal health care delivery in rural areas and for policies changes at the state level to support prenatal and postpartum mothers. CareSource is focused on improving Georgia’s maternal health including providing resources for locating health services, as well as transportation to remove barriers from proper health treatment.