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US Health and Human Services unveils action plan to address ‘maternal morbidity,’ reduce racial disparities

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Maternal deaths are on the rise because hospitals and doctors ignore safety measures. High blood pressure took one mom's life. Excessive bleeding left another with a hysterectomy. Would long-known safety practice have saved both?

Keelee Moseley knew something wasn’t right.

After an emergency cesarean section in February 2018, the Texas mom was in so much pain she couldn’t walk. She told doctors she wasn’t feeling well. Still, hospital staff sent her home.

In the following days, she only felt worse. Her heart rate rose, she nursed a fever and her stomach swelled, turning red.

A week after the C-section, Moseley noticed a black blister on her stomach. The 40-year-old IT professional wound up in the ICU. Her kidneys were failing. She had sepsis, and a flesh-eating, life-threatening infection at the incision site.

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Keelee Moseley is pictured with her baby boy Adrian in February 2018.

Moseley is one of about 25,000 women nationwide who develop severe complications during pregnancy each year, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Approximately 700 die of those complications. Women of color are most at risk.

“I didn’t know that Black women were dying at the rate they were dying at – until it was almost me,” Moseley said.

Black women like Moseley die at three times the rate of white women from pregnancy-related causes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In light of those troubling statistics, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Thursday morning an action plan to improve maternal health.

The road map outlines three targets to achieve in the next five years: reduce the maternal mortality rate by 50%; reduce the low-risk C-section delivery rate by 25% and control blood pressure in 80% of reproductive aged-women.

The department announced various objectives for a “life course approach” toward improving women’s health pre-pregnancy, during pregnancy and postpartum.

“We really need to create health along the life course. You’re not going to magically make someone healthy when they find out they have a positive pregnancy test,” said Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams,who released an accompanying call to action. “We want to make sure people are healthy before they become pregnant, while they’re pregnant and after they deliver.” 

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