Task Force charged with reducing maternal deaths meets

Texas leads the nation in the number of women who die within the first year of giving birth. During the Legislature's Special Session, lawmakers extended the life of a task force working on a solution. Today, those members met for the first time since then.

AUSTIN - The birth of a baby is supposed to be the most joyous time for a family but all too often, in Texas, it leads to death.

According to the state, from 2012 to 2015, 382 Texas mothers died either as a direct result of or related to giving birth. That's more than any other state, or any other developed country.

This year, that statistic became Chris Zavala's reality.

"I just remember crying, watching them perform CPR on her," Zavala said. 

His wife Michelle died from a pulmonary embolism eight days after giving birth. 

In 2013, Texas lawmakers passed a bill creating the Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force. The task force was charged with studying the cause of death and proposing policy solutions. 

The life of the task force was coming to an end and efforts during the Texas Legislature's regular session to extend the task force failed. But during the Special Session, Representative Shawn Thierry (D-Houston), who herself almost died during child birth, led the charge to extend the life of the task force.

Six weeks after the bill to do that was signed into law, the doctors, nurses and advocates who make up the task force met in Austin to get a refresher on their role and the scope of the problem.

"It affects so many families so what we're talking about is not just the loss of the mother, which is absolutely devastating in itself, but the dramatic negative effect it also has on all of the members of their families," said Dr. Lisa Hollier, MD, who serves as Chair of the Texas Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force.

The 2016 task force report found the top causes of death for mothers who died during or within seven days of giving birth are cardiac events, hemorrhage, and amniotic embolism. The top causes of death for mothers who died after seven days from causes not solely related to pregnancy were drug overdose, homicide and suicide.

"The task force is working really hard to identify opportunities for prevention that we can put into place so no other families have to be affected by the loss of a mother," said Hollier. 

The task force has already suggested giving mothers more access to health care and pre-screening. And now that the life of the group has been extended until 2023, the members are hoping to come up with more solutions to keep Texas moms healthy and alive.

In the meantime, the state has established a website to help women who are pregnant and those wanting to have children plan a healthy pregnancy.

© 2017 KVUE-TV


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