When someone is pregnant, they have every reason to expect labor and delivery to end with a baby and mother recovering from routine health issues related to childbirth. Unfortunately, the quality of maternal care in the U.S. is not as high as many may expect.

States have dramatically different maternal mortality rates and that is an important consideration in the Kansas City area. Families in Kansas or Missouri may have a completely different experience depending on where they give birth.

Kansas mothers may be safer

According to the latest statistics, there are 17.7 deaths per 100,000 live births in Kansas. This rate is down from 19.6 deaths in 2016. One reason cited as a strength for the state is a high percentage of prenatal care before the third trimester. Doctors can watch trends throughout the pregnancy to determine problems and act accordingly.

Conversely, in Missouri there are 32.6 deaths per 100,000 live births. This rate increased from 28.5 deaths in 2016. That makes Missouri a top 10 state for maternal mortality.

A proposal to curb maternal mortality failed

Last year, a Missouri legislator proposed a bill that would have established a 14-member committee including maternal health specialists who would review maternal deaths annually, identify the causes and work with the state legislature to recommend improvements.

Missouri already has a Pregnancy Associated Mortality Review Board but this bill would have gone further. Unfortunately, it didn’t make it past the House.

Why review may be necessary

However, extensive review may be the key to lowering maternal mortality rates. National Public Radio and ProPublica spent a year investigating U.S. maternal mortality rates and held up California as an example for other states to follow.

The California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative was established in 2006 after childbirth-related deaths doubled, helped the state reduce maternal mortality. The collaborative helped medical professionals identify key trends among fatalities and focus on prevention tactics with future patients. California now has one of the lowest maternal mortality rates in the country.

Establishing a similar review process in Missouri could help families hold doctors accountable for malpractice if improper care caused a fatality or near-fatality. Missouri families deserve a safe birth experience. If something terrible happens, they deserve to know why the unthinkable occurred and act if necessary.