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Local News

State House Democrats hold hearing on pregnancy-related deaths

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By Sarah Kallis,  GPB News

House Democrats in Georgia held a hearing Thursday to discuss maternal mortality in the state. 

Doctors, midwives, and doulas spoke to lawmakers about the holes in the health care system that exacerbate Georgia’s maternal mortality crisis.

Safira Zayas, a doula and emergency medical technician, had a near-death experience when she gave birth. She also lost her cousin from C-section complications.

“Behind these numbers lie tragic stories of lives lost, families shattered, and futures altered,” she said. “Each statistic represents a mother whose journey through childbirth ended in tragedy. It’s a plea to prioritize the lives of mothers and the future generations they bring into this world.”

According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, for every 100,000 live births, there are more than 30 pregnancy-related deaths in Georgia. 

Black women are also three times as likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth than white women. 

The bottom line is women, specifically Black women who become pregnant in Georgia, are dying, and that simply does not have to be so,” Georgia Budget and Policy Institute President and CEO Staci Fox said while testifying. 

Toby Terwilliger, a physician at Grady Hospital said that 4 out of 5 pregnancy-related deaths are preventable with quality medical care. But 82 of Georgia’s 159 counties do not have an obstetrician, according to data from U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff’s office.

Dr. Suchitra Chandrasekaran, a maternal and fetal medicine doctor, said that postpartum care is also important in preventing pregnancy-related deaths or medical complications. She said that new mothers often don’t know that they have access to postpartum medical services for a year after pregnancy through Medicaid, and miss crucial care.

The General Assembly voted to extend those benefits in 2022.  

State Rep. Park Cannon said that the caucus wants to continue to elevate conversations about pregnancy-related deaths in the coming session and beyond.

This story comes to the Columbus News through a reporting partnership with GPB News, a non-profit newsroom covering the state of Georgia.