Bad data: Texas maternal deaths lower than initially thought

FILE - A pregnant woman and her doctor_584864

The number of women who died while pregnant, during childbirth or after giving birth in Texas was actually less than half what the 2012 data suggested, the state announced Monday.

The announcement, from the Texas Department of State Health Services, concluded the state’s maternal mortality number was actually 56, not 147 deaths as previously reported. 

DSHS pinpointed the issue where women were incorrectly identified as being pregnant when they died, when in reality they were not — an error likely made by the people who certified the women’s deaths choosing the wrong option when registering the deaths electronically.

A seeming spike in maternal mortality between 2010 and 2012 also coincided with a nearly 40 percent increase in the number of deaths registered electronically.

The department began examining not only death data but also birth and fetal death records as well as autopsy data for any evidence of pregnancy when working to gather more accurate data about maternal mortality in Texas.

“This more accurate, verified data is an important part of our ongoing work to improve maternal health in Texas,” said Dr. Manda Hall, DSHS Associate Commissioner for Community Health Improvement. “Better data will improve our ability to implement and assess ways to reduce maternal deaths and other severe pregnancy complications.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott identified maternal mortality as one of 20 items for the Texas Legislature to tackle in a special session in 2016. 

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