Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) – Missouri’s maternal mortality rate is ranked as one of the worst in the country.

Last year’s Health of Women and Children Report by the United Health Foundation put the national average at nearly 20 deaths per 100,000 live births. The report put Missouri’s maternal mortality rate at more than 28 deaths per 100,000 live births, ranking the state in the bottom 10.

“It’s not acceptable,” said Randall Williams, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. He said most maternal deaths are preventable, but there’s room for improvement.

The leading causes of maternal death in Missouri are cardiac-related. The state’s high smoking and obesity rates during pregnancy also put women at more risk, the Kansas City Star reported.

State figures show that about 15 percent of Missouri women smoked during pregnancy in 2015. Nationally the rate is less than 8.5 percent.

“I’ve worked on both coasts and when I came here I was actually shocked to see how many smoking pregnant mothers we do have,” said Devika Maulik, an OB-GYN at Children’s Mercy Hospital and Truman Medical Center. “They have an idea that it’s not good for the pregnancy, but it is so hard to quit and even as a physician there are really limited options if they’re not self-motivated to do it.”

The risks pile up when pregnant women don’t regularly see a doctor. A report released in May by the Health Department found that 17.5 percent of Missouri women don’t receive prenatal care in the first trimester of pregnancy.

Williams said the statistic is partly due to accessibility. He said more than 70 counties in Missouri don’t have an OB-GYN.

“We need all hands on deck,” Williams said.

The United Health Foundation report says the U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate among developed countries, with more than 1,300 pregnancy-related deaths between 2011 and 2012.

(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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