Left in the dark
Texas has a problem: Deaths of women linked to pregnancy and childbirth are increasing.
How bad is the problem? We don’t know. That’s another problem.
A new study in the medical journal Birth suggests the reporting and data collection system in Texas is so shoddy that it’s impossible to develop a clear picture of how many women are dying of childbirth-related complications.
Bottom line: The increase may not be as bad as officials believed, but they don’t know exactly how bad it is.
There has been justifiable alarm over a spike the past several years in maternal deaths, along with a growing debate over its underlying cause. The medical community, advocacy groups and boards like this one have made strong calls for legislative action to reverse this trend.
But how can the state tackle a problem it can’t even define? As reported by The Texas Tribune, a careful analysis of Texas statistics on maternal mortality likely includes an unknown number of “false positives,” particularly in data recorded in the past five years.
This is no cause for celebration. Researchers are not questioning an increase in pregnancy and childbirth-related deaths to Texas women. Like many other U.S. states — and unlike other developed nations — we’re seeing evidence of a trend that many fear is linked to worsening access to health care for women of childbearing age.
After analyzing Texas’ vital records, “I was surprised how bad the data was,” said one of the study’s co-authors, adding