Experts compare Potter County infant mortality rates to those in third world countries


AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - Maternal and infant mortality rates are high in the Texas Panhandle, with some areas numbers similar to those in a third world country.

“No woman should be dying in childbirth in the 21st century,” said Claudia Stravato, Amarillo League of Women Voters newsletter editor.

Maternal and infant mortality isn’t just during pregnancy or childbirth, but throughout the first year after delivery.

“The deaths that I know of in Amarillo, maternal mortality that we have had that I know of were cardiovascular deaths for unrepaired heart lesions. The other interesting part that was alarming was that over half of the deaths of the mothers were over six months after they delivered, and they were suicide, domestic violence, or violent crimes, and overdoses,” said Dr. Teresa Baker, co-director of infant risk center.

Potter county is seeing higher mortality numbers due to the lack of women and children with health insurance. Pregnant mothers do receive maternity coverage, but it ends at six weeks postpartum.

“79105 for instance, had an infant mortality rate of 18 per 1,000, which is somewhere like a third world country like Nicaragua,” said Dr. Baker.

“They come to pregnancy with obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and so they are, as one of the researchers said, they are a time bomb about ready to go off because they don’t have care throughout their lives so they come to pregnancy with lots of risk factors,” said Stravato.

Many groups are focusing on finding solutions this year.

“The goal is then we transmit consensus that we reach in locally to the state league, and possibly the national league,” said Sonya Letson, president of the Amarillo League of Women Voters.

Texas has started to make changes to lower the mortality numbers.

“Texas has begun to start what they call maternal levels of care. So every labor and delivery, just like a neonatal ICU goes through a site visit to determine what level of baby they should be caring for,” said Dr. Baker.

STD rates are so high in the Panhandle, there are new measures doctors are taking to protect their babies.

“The state has mandated that we screen for HIV and syphilis twice during every pregnancy. Once in the first trimester, one in the third trimester. Obviously they are screening for all STD’s as well,” said Dr. Baker.

The overall goal for doctors, researchers and activists is to get maternal and infant mortality rates down to zero.

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