AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Why are new Georgia mothers dying?

When it comes to women dying in or after childbirth Georgia leads the nation, according to a report by Amnesty International.

On Tuesday, state officials began trying to understand why.

Using death certificates, a new maternal mortality review committee identified 85 women in 2012 who died within one year of giving birth. Of those, 25 deaths were directly related to the pregnancy. The leading cause of death in that group was hemorrhage followed closely by hypertension, cardiac disorders and embolism.

Sixty more mothers died within a year of giving birth, but the cause appeared unrelated to the pregnancy. The committee found that the leading causes of death were motor vehicle accidents, homicide and suicide.

Obesity was also a factor in a many of the cases reviewed.

The 85 deaths - while disturbing - are a small percent of the more than 130,000 live births in 2012.

The maternal mortality committee was established in 2014 and plans additional research, especially in cases where the deaths of new moms may be preventable.

State Department of Public Health Commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald said Tuesday that for women who've died from hemorrhages, for instance, officials need to know why.

"Is it because there's not enough blood product on hand, the patent spent too long in the OR, or the recognition of the problem came too late?" she asked.

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About the Author

Shannon McCaffrey is a senior editor for the Crime & Public Safety team.