Birth workers talk maternal mortality at Springfield, Mo. conference

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Missouri has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country. Birth workers and community members met at a conference Sunday to talk about how to lower that number.

One woman had personal reasons for attending.

"The greatest work of my life was this girl here. She was everything to me," said Rochelle Russell.

Rochelle Russell travels the county to tell her daughter's story. Breanna Banner had a stroke just days after giving birth.

"She died 19 days after having my granddaughter," Russell said.

Breanna was 20 years old.

"When she was pushing the baby, it over-flooded her head with pressure and fluid. It literally pushed her brain to the left," Russell said.

According to Poppy Daniels, OB/GYN, a stroke is just one of the risks for expecting mothers.

"Pre-eclampsia, stroke, blood clots, those are the most common causes of death," Daniels said.

Daniels said other complications are heart disease, diabetes, infection and and blood loss. According to the United Health Foundation, Missouri ranks 42 out of all 50 states for maternal mortality.

"Part of the problem is, we have a lot of rural Missourians who do not have good access to care. There's a lot of hospitals, especially rural hospitals that have closed," Daniels said.

She said a lot of people don't know how common maternal mortality is. The United Health Foundation states out of every 100,000 births in Missouri, around 32 of those mothers die. Daniels said African American women are three times more likely than white women to die during or after childbirth.

"I think unless something has happened to you or a family member, you're not aware of it," Daniels said.

She said expecting mothers and their families need to know the risks.

"You're able to do whatever you can to avoid them and ask your healthcare provider to help you understand what your risk is," Daniels said.

Russell said she wishes she'd asked more questions about her daughter's birth control. She said Breanna's stroke was caused from side effects doctors never told her about.

"Just be vigilant and ask the questions and if you're not comfortable with the answers, go to another doctor and ask them. You have the right to seek a second opinion. I learned that the hard way," she said.

Daniels said it's important for soon-to-be moms to be their own advocate or have a knowledgeable advocate with them at doctor appointments. She said many women are now using doulas or midwives for support during pregnancy.

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