First-ever Minnesota maternal mortality report reveals opportunities to prevent maternal deaths

The report examined 48 maternal deaths, from any cause, during or within one year of pregnancy from 2017 to 2018.
Published: Aug. 4, 2022 at 5:31 PM CDT
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MN. (Valley News Live) -The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) released its first-ever Minnesota Maternal Mortality Report on Thursday.

The report examined 48 maternal deaths, from any cause, during or within one year of pregnancy from 2017 to 2018. Collectively, the cases are considered “pregnancy-associated deaths,” even if the pregnancy itself did not cause the death.

Included in pregnancy-associated deaths are those that occurred from a pregnancy complication, a chain of events initiated by pregnancy or the aggravation of an unrelated condition by the physiologic effects of pregnancy. For example severe bleeding or high blood pressure – these are called “pregnancy-related deaths.”

While the report shows the state’s overall maternal mortality rate is much lower than the national average, it also shows stark disparities in mortality – especially among Black and Native American Minnesotans.

Black Minnesotans represent 13% of the birthing population but made up 23% of pregnancy-associated deaths, and Native American Minnesotans represent 2% of the birthing population, but 8% of pregnancy-associated deaths.

“The health of our mothers is a key indicator of the health of our state,” Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm said. “Each maternal death is tragic, and the racial disparities we see in the data are alarming. We mourn those Minnesotans who died and the impact of the losses on families and communities. This report is a critical first step to finding ways to prevent these deaths both inside and outside health care settings.”

The report includes data reviewed by the Maternal Mortality Review Committee, a multidisciplinary committee established in Minnesota statue and comprised with diverse representation from the maternal health field, public health and community organizations.

The report found that more than half of the pregnancy-associated deaths occurred from six weeks after the pregnancy to one year postpartum.

“Our work identifies a significant need for focused services after pregnancy delivery, during what is now being called the fourth trimester, given that well over half of pregnancy-associated deaths occur during this time,” Dr. Cresta Jones, associate professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School and co-chair of the Maternal Mortality Review Committee said. “Typically, individuals are not seen after delivery for 6-12 weeks, but earlier and more frequent post-delivery follow up will help identify patients most at risk, include those with substance use or a substance use disorder and those with other conditions placing them at higher risk of death by suicide.”

The report also lists recommendations to assist at-risk new and expecting mothers. These include extending coverage under Medicaid for people in Minnesota and connecting families to resources such as food, housing, transportation and mental health services.

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