Sen. Tom Carper hosted an Aug. 7 forum with Delaware Health and Social Services Secretary Kara Odom Walker to convene health care experts and medical professionals to discuss ways to reduce the maternal mortality rate in Delaware and across the U.S.

Each year, more than 50,000 mothers across the country are injured during or after childbirth and 700 women die. In the past 30 years, maternal mortality rates have increased by more than 20 percent in the U.S., even as maternal mortality rates have decreased in other developed countries. Also, according to the Centers for Disease Control, African-American women are three to four times as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes, regardless of their age, education and income levels.

“It is entirely unacceptable that, in 2018 and in the wealthiest nation on the planet, more women are dying from pregnancy-related complications than in any other developed country. It’s clear that many of these deaths are avoidable, and we should be laser-focused on figuring out how to keep mothers safe on what should be a joyous occasion,” said Carper. “When it comes to crafting effective policy, I believe that we should look to other countries and states to find out what is working so that we can do more of that. Other developed countries have figured out how to lower their rates of maternal deaths, and California has also made significant progress on the issue recently. Today’s discussion with experts in the field can help us highlight the lessons that have been learned and, from that, identify what we can be doing — at the local level, in every hospital and across the First State — to better address this preventable crisis.”

Carper is a co-sponsor of two bills in the Senate aimed at reducing maternal mortality.

The Maternal Health Accountability Act — S.1112 — is a bipartisan bill that would support state maternal mortality review committees, which bring together local obstetrician-gynecologists, nurses, social workers and other health care professionals to review individual maternal deaths and recommend policy solutions to prevent them in the future. These mortality review committees help in understanding maternal deaths and identifying opportunities for prevention.

The Improving Access to Maternity Care Act — S.783 — calls on the Health Resources and Services Administration at the Department of Health and Human Services to evaluate maternity care shortage areas to enable placement of maternity care providers where they are needed most via the National Health Service Corps. While obstetrician-gynecologists and certified nurse-midwives qualify for the National Health Service Corps., this bill would help address shortages using existing resources.

“We owe it to the more than 11,000 women who give birth each year in Delaware — and to their families — to work on understanding the root cause of maternal death and injury, and to instituting necessary changes throughout our health care system to prevent those heartbreaking outcomes,” said Walker, a board-certified family physician who has delivered more than 300 babies and who has assisted in 1,000 births. “Caring for a woman before, during and after childbirth and delivering a baby is an awesome responsibility for the entire health care team. With the right protocols, practices and data collection in place, I have no doubt that we can reduce maternal deaths and injuries in our state.”

Carper and Walker were joined by state officials, public health experts and medical professionals from across Delaware to discuss solutions to keep new mothers safe.