Women's health: More Ohio women dying from pregnancy complications

Zoe Greszler • Mar 26, 2018 at 4:00 AM

Locally and state-wide, women’s and children’s health may not be as good as we may want to believe. 

America’s Health Rankings recently released its 2018 Health of Women and Children Report. Though Ohio moved up a spot from 2016, the state still ranks 32nd in the country in the health of women, infants and children.

For example, according to the report, drug deaths increased 54 percent  — from 19.3 to 29.7 deaths per 100,000 females aged 15 to 44.

And while infant morality decreased just slightly from 7.4 to 7 deaths per 1,000 births, Ohio still ranks in the bottom half of the nation for the number of mothers that die from complications arising while carrying or delivering their baby. The report indicates a staggering 20.3 percent of women died per 100,000 live births. 

Locally, Dr. Shankar Kurra, Fisher-Titus Medical Center senior vice president of medical affairs, said these numbers don’t quite represent Huron County.

“Our numbers are not reflective of the state’s high number because we’re just one small community,” he said. “We have about 650 deliveries a year, which is much lower than the state.”

Public information officer Jessica Colvin, with Huron County Public Health (HCPH), provided statistics for the county. 

2016 and 2017 saw the same number of child/infant deaths, at seven both years. The average age was about 4 years old, with the youngest death being an infant who was just an hour old. 

Colvin said HCPH had no death certificates either year that listed child birth or drugs as the cause of death among pregnant women. However, she said it could be listed as another cause that was complicated by the pregnancy or birthing process.

“The reality is maternal complications do happen and have to be taken care of,” Kurra said. “There are several factors that we see here. The rampant obesity is one. which is a direct correlation to maternal mortality, as well as the alcohol and smoking rates.”

Kurra said income has “close ties” to the health of both mother and baby, which correlates with race as well.

“It’s exactly parallel,” he said. “There are 11 deaths per 1,000 births in black communities, compared to five per 1,000 in white communities. A woman who is unmarried has a 75 percent higher chance (of mortality).”

Kurra said drug abuse is on the list of things causing mother and baby deaths, however, surprisingly it comes lower down on the list, after obesity, smoking, drinking and other complications. Weight plays the biggest factor locally, he said.

“Mothers with obesity have twice the risk of mortality in the neonatal period,” he said. “In society, obesity is an image problem. In reality, it’s a very serious health problem. There’s a high health risk the baby is born with diabetes or heart/vascular issues. There women have a higher risk of all neonatal issues.

“Obesity isn’t a body image problem; it’s a health risk and a risk for your whole cardiovascular system.”

Kurra said the top strategy in combating maternal deaths is to increase access to prenatal care, decrease obesity in mothers and decreasing the use of smoking and drinking.

“That’s where our focus should be as a community,” he said. “Nothing can beat good prenatal care.”

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