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Report: Indiana’s maternal mortality rate is on the rise

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The maternal mortality rate in Indiana is on the rise, according to the Indiana Maternal Mortality Review Committee 2022 Annual Report from the state Department of Health. 

This year’s report, released in late September, breaks down what happened in 2020.

According to the review committee, there were 92 pregnancy-associated deaths in 2020. That means women and girls died during pregnancy or within a year of giving birth. The report says 83% of the deaths were postpartum and overdoses were the leading cause of death.

The report also lists 18 pregnancy-related deaths in 2020. Pregnancy-related deaths are when women or girls died during pregnancy or within a year after giving birth as a direct result of a pregnancy complication, a chain of events initiated by pregnancy, or the aggravation of an unrelated condition by the physiological effects of pregnancy.

The pregnancy-related death mortality ratio was 22.9 per 100,000 live births in 2020. That’s almost double the number from​ 2018, researchers say.

The state’s report says 79% of pregnancy-associated deaths and 77% of pregnancy-related deaths in 2020 were preventable.

The report also gives many future recommendations to help lower the maternal mortality rate in Indiana, including the following:

  • Publicly funded childcare, beginning in infancy 
  • Comprehensive, evidence-based sexual education 
  • Universal access to Long-Acting Reversible Contraception 
  • Medicaid and insurance coverage for medical procedures 
  • Access to public transportation and funding for medically necessary vehicle modifications
  • Funding for access to mental health providers, increase credentialed providers for mental health and substance abuse
  • Increase funding for social services, including the Department of Child Services (DCS) and other social service agencies that provide touchpoints for the prevention 
  • Increased focus on substance use disorder and injury prevention
  • Decrease barriers to treatment, including delays due to identification or insurance
  • Increase access to wrap-around services, ensuring high-risk patients are connected to the appropriate level of care management
  • Connect pregnant patients with community-based services such as My Healthy Baby and the Indiana Pregnancy Promise Program
  • Ensure the community is aware of the Pregnancy Help Hotline and is knowledgeable on how to use it
  • Educate pediatricians and providers who treat post-partum women on post-partum depression and how to implement services such as screens
  • Increase clinical care

These recommendations also include educating women on their options and creating more access to care. Ascension St. Vincent’s Midwifery program is a way to help, says Stephanie Crowell, a Certified Nurse Midwife at Ascension St. Vincent in Carmel.

“A lot of studies have been done that show that midwives really decrease maternal and infant mortality rates because they really promote access to care,” Crowell said. “They can be readily available, they can be used in rural areas, which is a big part of lacking in-patient care and patients being in patient care deserts where there are no OB-GYNs in their county or close by, and so midwives, if they were used more frequently, could really fill some of those gaps and really help give patients access to the care they need.”

A Certified Nurse Midwife is a licensed, board-certified healthcare provider who has an advanced degree in nursing. Currently, there are only around 200 midwives in Indiana, but it is a growing industry and could help these numbers in the future.

On Wednesday morning, WISH-TV will have an in-depth report on Ascension St. Vincent’s Midwife program and share a mother’s personal experience with it.