New Research Shows Texas’ Maternal Mortality Rate Is Far Lower Than Believed

Some deaths were previously counted incorrectly.

By Rhonda FanningApril 10, 2018 11:47 am

Why is Texas known as the most dangerous state in which to have a baby? The state’s maternal death rate tops that of most industrialized countries. USA Today, The Nation, and we at Texas Standard have all reported the statistics that add up to the highest rate of maternal mortality in the developed world – a rate of over 35 deaths per 100,000 births.

The problem was so concerning that Gov. Greg Abbott created a state task force to examine the issue. Now, new research points to why Texas appears to be such an outlier. A study published Monday in the peer reviewed medical journal Obstetrics and Gynecology reports the numbers were simply wrong.  

Marissa Evans, who covers health and human service policy issues for the Texas Tribune, says the new report found that the 147 maternal deaths reported in 2012 went down to 56, once the new methodology for counting them was applied. Evans says the difference boils down to how a death is classified when it is reported. Mistakenly checking the wrong checkbox, she says accounted for some misclassification of deaths.

Under the new methodology, researchers examine each reported case of maternal death, cross-referencing birth and death certificates, and other documents “really trying to dig down and make sure that a woman who was marked as a maternal death was actually pregnant at some point before she died,” Evans says.

Evans says that even though maternal deaths are lower than previously thought, the state task force “still matters.”

The group has analyzed risk factors like postpartum depression and availability of mental health and substance abuse services to new mothers, Evans says.

“The data is going to be important for legislators going forward,” she says. “I get the sense that they’re still going to be focused on this issue, but better data is hopefully going to help them with better policy solutions.”


Written by Shelly Brisbin.