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Improving Health Outcomes for Expectant Mothers in Arkansas

In the United States, a growing number of expectant mothers have long-term medical illnesses including diabetes, heart disease, or hypertension that can increase their risk of pregnancy complications. While it appears that there has been a significant decrease in the number of pregnant women dying in hospitals from delivery-related causes over the past few years, it’s important to note this decrease in maternal mortality only applies to in-hospital deaths, not the nation’s overall maternal mortality rate. Nationally, the maternal mortality rate has been on the rise.

When we look state-by-state, Arkansas had the highest maternal mortality rate across all states with 43.5 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births between 2018 and 2021. Arkansas also has the third-highest infant mortality rate of all 50 states.

At Arkansas Blue Cross, we know that healthy mothers are an important part of building healthier communities. We are committed to addressing disparities in care and investing in the health of expectant mothers and the next generation of Arkansans.

Access to Maternity Care in Arkansas

It’s important to consider how certain illnesses affect pregnant women or how they may result in unexpected complications during labor and delivery. These complications can have significant consequences for a woman’s health. A lack of facilities in Arkansas that have the ability to care for pregnant women can impact healthy outcomes. In fact, 37 counties in Arkansas are in “maternity care deserts.” These are counties without hospitals or staff that can provide obstetric care. Four additional counties in Arkansas were classified as having “low access” to maternity care services.

Additionally, Arkansas has the second-highest percentage of teen births in the country. Many of these new mothers might not have access to prenatal or post-natal care and may not know where to get it. Prenatal care is most effective when it starts early, even before pregnancy, and continues through birth and beyond. It can lessen the likelihood of having or developing health conditions by assisting in the prevention and treatment of health issues in both mothers and infants.

In the US all women are facing a maternal health crisis, but it is mainly affecting BIPOC women. American Indian, Alaska Native, and Black women in Arkansas are roughly two to three times more likely than white women to die from a pregnancy-related reason, making this a problem that disproportionately affects these marginalized communities. In addition to having a higher risk of pregnancy-related illnesses and deaths, women of color are also grappling with biases that endanger their own health and wellness.

Taking Charge of Your Pregnancy

Most pregnancy-related deaths and illnesses are preventable, and while it takes a team to make sure your pregnancy and birth go smoothly, here are a few ways to help you feel in charge of your health.

  • Addressing Health Conditions – Being aware of any health issues you have had prior to pregnancy and knowing illnesses that run in the family is an important conversation to have with your doctor. Frequent prenatal visits will help with identifying these conditions and treating or managing them.
  • Physical Activity – Women who engage in moderate physical activity during pregnancy find numerous benefits, including a lower risk of gestational diabetes and postpartum depression – which is estimated to affect one in seven women. Furthermore, physical activity during the postpartum period can boost a woman’s general health.
  • Join/Create Groups – Joining support groups (or starting one if there are none available to you) allows moms to share ideas for coping with the challenges of pregnancy and parenthood, and helps mothers engage with a role that may be new to them.

How We’re Supporting Expectant Mothers

At Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, we are dedicated to improving the health of expectant mothers before, during, and after pregnancy to reduce maternal fatalities and improve health equity.

One of the ways we provide high-quality maternity care to our members is through our whole-person approach to healthcare. Our approach aims to evaluate and address every aspect of a mother’s health. Knowing that many factors can change the health of a mother, we assist in tackling the numerous interconnected challenges that affect the lives of patients.

We also aim to identify high-risk mothers before pregnancy by exploring the links between physical and behavioral health disparities. This allows us to concentrate our efforts on communities and individuals in need of resources such access to care. Furthermore, we are developing programs that will assist Arkansans by providing them with health education tools and access to our care management teams. As our members decide to grow their families, we are there every step of the way.

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