A bipartisan bill to reduce the country’s high maternal mortality rate has been passed into law as part of the omnibus bill.
Senator Tina Smith, author of the Rural Maternal and Obstetric Modernization of Services, or MOMS, Act, says the U.S. is 46th in terms of maternal mortality rates and the only industrialized country where the number of women who die in childbirth is getting worse and not better. When she learned about those statistics, she also learned that half of the rural counties in Minnesota have birthing services in their hospitals. Both the Pew Trust and the Commonwealth Fund have written about the increase in the closure of OB units and the heavy reliance on midwives to fill the gap, potentially placing women and babies at risk.
Smith explains the MOMS Act “provides additional resources and training to rural hospitals and clinics to help them improve their maternal care, prenatal care, and as well as postpartum care when moms and babies go home it even allows for additional use of telehealth, which can make a big difference in improving prenatal care and postpartum care when babies come home.”
Smith stressed the telehealth angle in that when new parents in more rural areas who have a long drive to get to their prenatal or postpartum care stay connected to their providers, instances of postpartum depression can be identified early and treated before it becomes serious. She added that telehealth is not a replacement for face-to-face care, “but it can make a difference for moms as they do some of that more routine prenatal care, which is important because that reminds you; am I eating the right things? Am I taking the vitamins that I need? And also maybe I have some symptoms I don’t understand that can be evidence that you need to get into the doctor’s office because you might be having issues with hypertension or other kinds of early warning signs for a meeting that meaning that you have a higher risk pregnancy and needs to be seen the doctor more often.”