In Illinois, 83% of pregnancy-related deaths are preventable in Illinois
(The middle seat) – A new one report shows that there are two stories of pregnancy-related maternal mortality in Illinois that affect both races.
In the last years studied, 2016 and 2017, 60 women died in pregnancy-related deaths, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
The study found that blacks had a three times higher percentage mortality than whites. This is a decrease from the previous study that found black women six times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women.
Shannon Lightner, assistant director of the IDPH women’s health office, said it wasn’t because things got better for black women.
“So maternal mortality among white women has deteriorated, and it has reduced inequality, while maternal mortality among black women has largely remained the same,” she said.
The causes of death also varied in terms of racial segregation.
“Black women in Illinois die from medical causes, such as high blood pressure, bleeding, and pre-existing chronic illnesses made worse by pregnancy, and white women die from substance use disorders and mental illness,” she said.
Mental health, including substance abuse, was the leading cause of pregnancy-related deaths in the state at 40%, while 83% of deaths were potentially preventable.
Often times, health care providers aren’t very good at providing mental health care to pregnant women, Lightner said.
“We need access to specialists who know how to treat pregnant women with mental illness or substance use disorders, and we need timely access to that treatment,” she said.
Communication between specialists and providers is another problem. Lightner highlighted the story of a woman who accidentally overdosed.
“She saw the right specialists, but the specialists and providers didn’t speak to each other, and she was prescribed multiple drugs, often the same drugs in different doses, and accidentally overdosed from taking so many different drugs. Lightner said.
Lightner attributes many of these preventable deaths among black women to structural racism, barriers to care such as lack of transportation, and quality of care, among other things.