What’s Killing Pregnant Women In This State?

“[H]omicide is a leading cause of maternal death in Louisiana. Incidence of homicide during pregnancy and the postpartum period was greater than any single obstetric cause of death.” – JAMA Pediatrics, Feb 3, 2020

Women here are twice as likely to die while expecting

Feb 3, 2020 |

With a death rate for pregnant women that’s twice the U.S. average, this state is one of the country’s most dangerous places to have a baby.

Now, a new study on maternal mortality in Louisiana includes another startling statistic: Homicide is among the leading causes of death.

A study published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics by researchers from Tulane University and Louisiana State University found that women in Louisiana are more likely to be killed than to die from any single pregnancy-related condition.

Of the 119 pregnancy-related deaths in Louisiana from January 2016 through December 2017, 13.4% were homicides, or a rate of 12.9 deaths per 100,000 live births. In comparison, the rate for two common causes of maternal death, hypertensive disorders like preeclampsia and car crashes, were 3.2 and 10.5 per 100,000, respectively.

Aside from the broad category of “complications during delivery,” only diseases like cancer, HIV and respiratory illness outranked homicide.

“Maternal mortality in the United States is on the rise, mobilizing programmatic and policy responses at local, state, and federal levels. A growing number of jurisdictions identify homicide as a leading cause of death during pregnancy and the postpartum period … ” JAMA Pediatrics, Feb 3, 2020

Decades of research have shown that the chance a woman will be killed rises after she becomes pregnant, but the latest study points out that those deaths are not given the same attention as deaths that are directly related to giving birth.

It demonstrates the need to address issues of violence against women in maternal care, according to study author Maeve Wallace, an assistant professor at Tulane.

“Maternal mortality reduction efforts should incorporate violence prevention strategies and recommendations to prevent future maternal deaths,” she said.

Researchers looked at all maternal deaths in Louisiana in 2016 and 2017 to understand the circumstances of the deaths. Maternal deaths are defined as anything occurring during pregnancy or in the year after birth.

A homicide rate was calculated for those women and compared to Louisiana’s overall homicide rate for the same age group using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In comparison to women and girls in Louisiana of the same childbearing age who were not pregnant, the risk of homicide was twice as high in pregnant and postpartum women … Read more.