Georgia's maternal mortality rate still one of the highest in U.S., study states

Maternal mortality rates for hospitals has declined based on a new study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. But Georgia’s overall maternal mortality rate is still one of the highest in the country.

In that study published Thursday, researchers looked at 11 million discharges across the over a 13-year period and found a 57% decrease in maternal hospital deaths.

But Georgia’s maternal mortality rates are still some of the worst in the country.

"Maternal mortality globally which is how Georgia is ranked is maternal mortality anytime during pregnancy and even a period after pregnancy," Dr. Ravi Thadhani, Executive Vice President for Health Affairs at Emory University, said.

According to the CDC, Georgia women are twice as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes as in other parts of the country and African-American mothers in the state are twice as likely to die as white mothers. Experts say one of the biggest challenges in Georgia is access to care.

"There are a few healthcare centers that take care of women with chronic hypertension, diabetes, significant obesity and so forth in other words the sicker group and it is that sicker group that are at risk for really adverse outcomes and those women don’t have the kind of large access to the sites that provide pre-natal care in the state whether it’s because they live in certain areas or access to those hospitals are not available," Dr. Thadhani explained.

In fact, according to the March of Dimes, around 35% of counties in Georgia are maternity care deserts where maternity health care services are limited or non-existent many are in rural parts of the state.

"We need to facilitate make it easier to provide coverage from work for example to go and get that care given how important it is," Dr. Thadhani said.

Women with some conditions like pre-eclampsia can develop symptoms quickly, another reason why experts say access to health care options for mothers is so important.