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Editorial: NM at forefront of fighting grim stats on maternal mortality

In the list of worrisome maternal mortality statistics, one figure stands out in particular: 60%.

That’s the best estimation of the percentage of women in the U.S. whose deaths from childbirth complications were preventable, according to a story by Cronkite News writer Kyley Warren that appeared in the Journal on Dec. 28.

In the U.S.

In the 21st century.

It’s a problem that’s exacerbated in states like New Mexico, where so many expectant mothers live in rural areas or on tribal lands with limited access to health care.

That’s why it’s so heartening that leaders in our state and in our country are taking the problem seriously.

At the grassroots level, that includes people like the leaders of Santa Fe-based Changing Woman Initiative. The nonprofit recently hosted a doula workshop in Window Rock, Arizona, teaching a group of about 40 Navajo women to provide guidance during pregnancies and births.

It’s a great starting place. Doulas aren’t medical professionals; they’re there to help women navigate the pregnancy and childbirth process. For Native American women – who often don’t have easy access to prenatal care simply because of geographic distance – the voice of an experienced doula might make a great deal of difference. And who knows? Perhaps some doulas might realize they have a gift and go on to become nurses, midwives or doctors.

Santa Cruz-based Tewa Women United is another local group doing important work by providing low- or no-cost doulas and prenatal and postpartum care to Tewa women.

And at the national level, U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small has introduced legislation that would research the location of gaps in maternity care as well as activities to improve maternal care in rural areas, and make recommendations to standardize data collection on maternal mortality and morbidity.

Good for the leaders and organizations that are making fighting maternal mortality a priority. It’s an important issue that directly affects this, and the next, generation of New Mexicans.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.