For the last two years, Nurture KC’s Annual Meeting has focused on maternal mortality, a worst-case scenario in which Missouri ranks 7th from the bottom in occurrence. Our focus for this year’s meeting is on the more common incidence of maternal morbidity or a “near miss” during or after pregnancy. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists defines maternal morbidity as “the unintended process of labor and delivery that results in significant short-term or long-term consequences to a woman’s health.”
There is one incident of severe maternal morbidity for every 173 births, leading to 50,000 cases each year in the United States. For every maternal death, there are 70 instances of maternal morbidity. As with infant and maternal death, morbidity disproportionately impacts black women, who experience this at a rate double that of white women. There are twenty-one clinical indicators of maternal morbidity which tell only part of the story.
Mental well-being is intertwined with physical health and access to mental health care is often less attainable. While mental health issues are not among the 21 indicators, addressing these needs is a vital part of improving the health of our mothers. Dr. Tamela Ross has piloted a group counseling program for our Healthy Start moms experiencing perinatal mood disorders. Dr. Ross will be featured at the Annual Meeting as we focus not just on defining the problem, but put forward tangible strategies to improve outcomes. We will also hear from a doula and midwife panel with one-on-one experience helping mothers through the birth process and making it a peaceful and rewarding one.
In addition to direct service, there are policy and systems changes that must occur to implement a change in culture that is necessary if we are to truly make progress in valuing the health and lives of our mothers. While there has been a spotlight on maternal health for a few years, the corresponding action has not been quick to follow. Please join us as we begin the hard work of prioritizing women’s health in Kansas and Missouri.
Executive Director, Nurture KC