ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — Arkansas’ maternal mortality rate was about 33 deaths per 100,000 live births, according to 2018 data.

Clare Brown, PH.D., an assistant professor at the Fay Boozman College of Public Health at UAMS, said there are multiple reasons for the high rate such as mental health, OB-GYN access, and insurance coverage.

“Women who have mental health conditions going into pregnancy, during pregnancy or shortly after pregnancy could be at increased risk for adverse maternal outcomes,” Brown said.

Arkansas has a Maternal Mortality Review Committee to address the issue. Brown said the committee’s 2018 report found many of the pregnancy-related deaths could have been stopped.

“They determined that a little over 90% of these deaths were preventable,” Brown said.

A recent study by the University of Colorado Boulder found banning abortion could worsen maternal health outcomes. Now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned, almost all abortions in Arkansas are banned. The study found maternal mortality could increase by 24%.

Brown said the maternal mortality rate also has racial disparities with Black women at a higher risk. Brown said combating maternal mortality needs to involve provider training, policy changes, and community education.

“It’s important for clinicians to have training on a lot of times it’s a cultural competency type thing,” Brown said.

Brown also said it’s important for families and friends to look out for expectant and new mothers.

“Make sure to understand if she’s busy, if she’s incredibly fatigued, if she has trouble breathing, or if she’s has a severe headache, go see a physician those are some types of signs of potentially severe maternal outcome,” Brown said.