ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)- The New York State Department of Health (DOH) said 78% of pregnancy-related deaths in 2018 could have been prevented statewide, according to its new report. They also said Black non-Hispanic women were five times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related complication than white non-Hispanic women, and women who had a cesarean delivery were 1.7 times more likely to die compared to women who delivered vaginally.

The leading causes of pregnancy-related deaths were embolism (20%), hemorrhage (20%), and mental health conditions (15%). More than half of the women that died (51.2%), did so within six weeks of delivery. 100% of deaths caused by hemorrhage, mental health conditions, and cardiomyopathy were preventable, the DOH report said.

“Examining maternal health outcomes from a racial equity perspective is critical to unearthing institutional issues so they can be addressed,” said DOH Commissioner, Dr. Mary Bassett. “Access to good, quality maternal healthcare should be guaranteed to every pregnant New Yorker, and the Department remains committed to the findings from this work.”

Discrimination also played a factor in the number of pregnancy-related deaths. The DOH said in 46% of the deaths, discrimination was “likely” or “definitely” related. “Today’s historic report helps us spotlight and address the critical urgency of improving maternal health outcomes statewide,” said NYS Maternal Mortality Review Board (MMRB) Member, Dr. Camille Clare. “The findings and recommendations will help to reduce racial disparities and advance policies and healthcare services needed to support New York families during pregnancy and the postpartum period.”

The MMRB made the following recommendations to address issues raised by the report:

  • Expansion of postpartum Medicaid coverage for one year after birth, especially for those eligible only during pregnancy.
  • Institution of home visiting programs from a nurse or paraprofessional within two weeks of delivery to provide education and one-on-one support to families, including on infant care and the warning signs of postpartum complications.
  • Integration of community-based resources, particularly for those with health conditions or who have difficulty accessing follow-up care, including through doulas, visiting nurses, community health workers/patient navigators, telehealth visits/support, and remote monitoring where available.
  • Continuity of care for pregnant or recently pregnant New Yorkers who are treated by multiple doctors both during the pregnancy and afterward.

New York’s maternal mortality rate is 19.2 (number of deaths per 100,000 births), according to World Population Review. It has the 24th lowest maternal mortality rate in the U.S. Delaware has the lowest rate (0), and Louisiana has the highest rate (58.1).

The DOH’s full report on maternal deaths in 2018 is available online. Maternal deaths went up nationwide by 14% from 754 in 2019 to 861 in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The DOH said this highlights the urgent need to address maternal mortality and said it is working to expand on the 2018 report with data from 2019 and 2020.