Almost all deaths of pregnant woman in Texas may have been preventable, according to a recent state report.
Pregnancy and childbirth complications also increased, surging from 58.2 to 72.7 cases per 10,000 deliveries in Texas between 2018 and 2020, according to the report from the state’s Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Review Committee.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, during and after pregnancy — and seizures resulting from it — are among the leading causes of maternal death.
Although avoidable, complications from pregnancy-related hypertension, called preeclampsia, often go unnoticed because many women don’t have the tools, education or empowerment needed to monitor, maintain and advocate for their prenatal and postpartum health, experts say.
To address this critical issue, March of Dimes Texas received a $45,000 grant from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas (BCBSTX) to distribute hundreds of hypertension kits, including blood pressure cuffs, to maternal health providers. Those providers are working with their patients, teaching them to use the blood pressure cuffs as part of their home health care routines.
“Pregnant women need to be empowered with the knowledge and tools they need to monitor their own health,” says Heather Butscher, maternal and infant health director for March of Dimes Houston. “These hypertension kits will be an integral part of that education and empowerment.”
In 2022, BCBSTX awarded $2.1 million grants to 54 community-based organizations statewide, including the March of Dimes, to improve Texans’ health and wellness. Focal points of the grant program include nutrition, economic opportunity and stability, neighborhood environment and infrastructure, locally defined health solutions and optimal health outcomes.
“We are happy to award these grants that will support and nurture meaningful and transformational projects across Texas,” says Sheena Payne, BCBSTX’s director of Community Investments. “Strategically, it is also important that we continue to aid community-based organizations that are directly supporting children and families with health and wellness equity as well as building foundations for economic opportunity.”
March of Dimes’ initiative targets communities of color disproportionately affected by health disparities and at higher risk for pregnancy complications. Blood pressure cuff use between prenatal visits can help patients and providers identify and treat problems and lower preventable, adverse birth outcomes for mothers and babies, Butscher says.
“This project has been a dream of mine,” she says. “We appreciate the commitment Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas has to help change maternal and infant health care.”