South Carolina maternal health crisis worsening

1 min read
September 25, 2023

What’s new: A panel of experts warned on Thursday that South Carolina’s prenatal care is lacking, with increased rates of preterm births and escalating infant mortality, particularly in Black and brown communities.

Why it matters: The discussion, hosted by the S.C. League of Women Voters and featuring members from the Alliance for a Healthier South Carolina, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control, Charleston Birth Place, and the Medical University of South Carolina, highlighted the urgency of the state’s maternal health crisis.

By the numbers:

  • The U.S. received a D+ for maternal health in the 2022 March of Dimes Report Card.
  • South Carolina scored an F. The state’s preterm birth rate went from 10.8% in 2014 to 12.1% in 2021, surpassing the 2021 nationwide rate of 10.5%.
  • The state’s infant mortality rate is 6.5 deaths per 1,000 live births, higher than the national average of 5.4. This figure surged 12.3% by 2021.
  • Black infant mortality rates are double those of white infants in the state.
  • 14 rural counties in the state were among the top 15 with the highest infant mortality rates in 2021.

The big picture: Experts emphasized the pivotal role of prenatal care. The March of Dimes report noted that 18% of South Carolina’s pregnant women in 2021 lacked adequate prenatal care.

Why prenatal care matters: Over 80% of the pregnancy-related deaths in 2019 were preventable. Before pregnancy, pre-pregnancy and prenatal care are crucial for managing health concerns, especially mental health and substance abuse issues.

Beyond clinical care: According to Monty Robertson of AHSC, clinical care addresses only 20% of health concerns. Diet, exercise, and other health behaviors account for 30% of health outcomes. Social and economic factors dominate the rest.

Alternative healthcare solutions: Doulas and midwives could address some health issues. Lesly Rathbun of CBP emphasized their importance, though they face challenges in South Carolina due to low pay, limited opportunities, and legislative restrictions

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