Maternal welfare advocates react to CDC report on uptick in moms dying during pregnancy

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says mothers are dying during pregnancy and childbirth at alarming rates.

The numbers from the CDC are of great concern at hospitals like St. Luke's Health System. The CDC says more women -- new moms -- are dying due to childbirth and pregnancy. The CDC says more than 50,000 women suffer serious complications during pregnancy and childbirth, and 700 of them die every year.

Dr. Karen Florio, a maternal fetal specialist with St. Luke's, said she follows this issue closely.

Florio points to the number one cause of death in women, heart trouble, which can become more serious during pregnancy. So many of those concerns come from lifestyle choices, such as getting exercise and keeping a healthy diet.

"When I came here, I was astounded by the number of women who have cardiovascular disease in pregnancy," Florio said. "Part of it is in our health care. Women are older now when they're having their first baby. They're sicker. Obesity rates are going up."

The March of Dimes said Missouri mothers are among the most at-risk in the nation. That nonprofit, which focuses on healthy births, reported mothers in the Show-Me State ranked 42nd in the nation, ranking them in the lowest 20 percent.

The agency said mothers in Kansas are at less of a risk than their neighbors in Missouri. They're ranked at 20th overall. However, a spokesperson for the March of Dimes said more babies are born in Missouri.

Ellie Brent, a director of maternal child health with the March of Dimes in Overland Park, said chronic conditions, including stress, can also produce adverse effects on mothers at crucial times.

"There's not one factor. It's so multi-faceted," Brent told FOX4. "We know what the impact of stress on our daily lives can impact your organ systems' functioning. There's also a body of research growing that shows the stress of a mother can actually impact not only her birth, but it can impact the stress of her future child's birth as well."

The CDC report also said women of color are three times as likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth. Experts claim a lack of medical care may to be blame.

Florio said it's best to address your potential health concerns before conception.

The CDC didn't conduct its first report on maternal mortality until 2016. Florio added that some statistics may be skewed a little. Death certificates in the U.S. didn't include "death during pregnancy" as an option for medical examiners until 2003.

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