Health officials work to improve maternal health

INDIANAPOLIS – Governor Eric J. Holcomb has proclaimed January 23 as Maternal Health Awareness Day in Indiana. The declaration is part of a national effort designed to remember the women who have lost their lives to childbirth and focus on efforts to ensure that Indiana moms are able to have safe and healthy deliveries.

Every day, two women die in the United States following childbirth, and an additional 1,000 women are affected each week by severe complications during delivery. In Indiana, 123 women suffered pregnancy-associated deaths in 2018 and 2019.

State Health Commissioner Kris Box

“The Indiana Maternal Mortality Review Committee has worked to identify issues leading to the deaths of women during their pregnancy or within 12 months of the end of their pregnancy, with a goal of preventing future maternal deaths,” said State Health Commissioner Kris Box, M.D., FACOG. “To achieve that goal, we must address a broad spectrum of issues, including access to care and the opioid epidemic, and collaborate with state and federal partners to develop strategies to improve health outcomes. Through these efforts, we can improve health outcomes for both mothers and babies.”

Indiana is working to improve maternal health outcomes on numerous fronts. In addition to the work of the Maternal Mortality Review Committee:

  • Indiana participates in the Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health (AIM), a national safety initiative that has enabled hospitals to implement patient safety bundles to save lives and decrease complications related to pregnancy and childbirth.
  • My Healthy Baby, Indiana’s OB navigator program, seeks to connect pregnant individuals who receive Medicaid benefits to home visiting and other support services during their pregnancy and up to the baby’s first year of life.
  • The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration’s free Pregnancy Promise program connects individuals who receive Medicaid benefits to prenatal and postpartum care and treatment for opioid use disorder.
  • Indiana Medicaid has extended pregnancy coverage to 12 months post-partum.
  • The Indiana Department of Health also participates in the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS), a joint research project with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kent State University in Ohio that uses data to determine why some babies are born healthy and others are not.
  • The Levels of Care system assesses all delivering hospitals for their level of maternal and neonatal care to ensure that mothers and babies with risk factors deliver at the facility best prepared to manage those risk factors.
CDC’s Hear Her campaign

Indiana also has partnered with the CDC’s Hear Her campaign, which seeks to raise awareness of potentially life-threatening warning signs during and after pregnancy. The goal of the campaign is to improve communication between patients and their healthcare providers, empower women to speak up if something does not feel right, and encourage women’s support systems to engage in important conversations with them throughout pregnancy and beyond.

Dr. Box noted that improving the health of mothers can also lead to better outcomes for their babies and that both efforts require collaboration and time. “Recognizing that we all have a role to play, whether it’s ensuring that our grandchildren are in safe sleep environments or helping a new mom who may be struggling with depression, is the first step,” she said.