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New report identifies disparities in Minnesota's maternal deaths

The report examines maternal deaths during or within one year of pregnancy from 2017-2018.
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ST PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) released its first-ever Minnesota Maternal Mortality Report on Thursday. 

Data included in the report came from 48 maternal deaths, from any cause, during or within one year of pregnancy from 2017 to 2018. These cases are collectively considered "pregnancy-associated deaths," even if the pregnancy itself did not cause the death.

Included among the pregnancy-associated deaths are a number of "pregnancy-related deaths," where the pregnancy was the direct cause of the mother's death. Such causes include severe bleeding and high blood pressure. 

A key finding identified in the report was the stark contrast in mortality rates among Black and Native American mothers in Minnesota. Black Minnesotans represent 13% of the birthing population but made up 23% of pregnancy-associated deaths, and Native American Minnesotans represent 2% of the birthing population, but 8% of pregnancy-associated deaths.

“The health of our mothers is a key indicator of the health of our state,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm in a statement. “Each maternal death is tragic, and the racial disparities we see in the data are alarming. This report is a critical first step to finding ways to prevent these deaths both inside and outside health care settings.”

Dr. Cresta Jones, associate professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School, said that "earlier and more frequent" post-delivery follow-ups are the key to identify mothers that are the most at risk for life threatening conditions.

“Our work identifies a significant need for focused services after pregnancy delivery, during what is now being called the fourth trimester, given that well over half of pregnancy-associated deaths occur during this time,” said Jones.

The report further informs public health policy recommendations to assist at-risk new and expecting mothers. These recommendations include extending coverage under Medicaid for people in Minnesota and connecting birthing families to resources including housing, transportation, food and mental health services.

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