Steps being taken to slow down alarming rate of Texas women dying during childbirth

Rate of mortality during, after birth 14 per 100K in Texas, Ob-Gyn says

HOUSTON – Healthy lungs, 10 little fingers and 10 perfect little toes are what expectant mothers hope to hear about their babies during pregnancy.

Alexia McClerkin was recently pregnant with her second son, Carter.

“He's my little warrior and my running buddy,” she said.

As a chiropractor and registered nurse, McClerkin knows the importance of staying healthy. While pregnant, she completed 15 races.

“Running and walking, even just 30 minutes a day, helps with the pregnancy and makes for an easier labor,” McClerkin said.

Healthy pregnancies are a major health topic, as concern grows over the number of women dying during childbirth or immediately following delivery.

Nationwide, about 700 women die each year during childbirth, or in the hours after delivery, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Texas, 382 women died between 2012 and 2015, and the numbers are not improving.

“If we look nationwide, the rate of mortality is about 26 per 100,000 births. For Texas, based on the newest data from the Department of State Health Services, we're at about 14 per 100,000 live births,” said Dr. Lisa Hollier, an obstetrician and gynecologist with Baylor College of Medicine, and the chair of Texas Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force. “That puts us almost twice as high as the state of California, for example."

She said the risk of death during or after delivery is higher for African-American women.

“We know that there are a number of different factors that give rise to the higher mortality rate of African-American women,” she said.

One explanation she gave was prejudices at hospitals against minorities.

“We think that there is probably also a role for implicit bias in the differences and outcomes that we see for African-American women,” Hollier said.

African-American women are more likely to suffer from complications after childbirth than white females.

Hollier said there are also pre-existing factors that increase the risks, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and access to care.

“We're talking about implementing solutions that change the culture and really enhance quality, equity and safety,” she said.

Hollier said women need to communicate with their doctor before, during and after pregnancy, and to be as specific as possible about pain and unusual symptoms.

“When did it start? How long has it been there? How is it different than something you've experienced before?” Hollier said.

Alexia is also doing her part to help women. She created 9 months of 5K to help give minority women access to proper care and nutrition during pregnancy. 

“Making sure they're going to their prenatal visits,” McClerkin said. “Also, making sure that they are taking their prenatal vitamins, and then also, nutrition that they wouldn't have ordinarily had access to.”

On June 22, McClerkin gave birth to her son, Carter. Both mom and baby are doing well.

Click here for a more in-depth look at mortality rates in the state of Texas.