The state of Colorado may have one of the nation’s most progressive views on the legalization of certain kinds of drugs, but the opioid epidemic and other substance abuse issues persist. One group of people affected who need immediate attention are pregnant women.
While opioid-related deaths in the state of Colorado are modestly declining, the death rates among pregnant women are on the rise. A Maternity-Mortality Review Committee was activated at the 2019 state legislative session to begin efficiently analyzing maternity death data and provide research-backed recommendations. The red tape now cleared, this committee has the freedom to provide meaningful insight into this tragic crisis.
Maternal Death That Is Not Pregnancy Related
Maternal mortality is an international issue that receives deserved attention from medical professionals, sociologists and other researchers. As international maternal mortality numbers decline, however, some states are seeing increases. Colorado is one of these states. According to statistics generated by the Colorado Department of Health, 85% of maternal deaths between 2008 and 2013 were not related to pregnancy.
Maternal death records include pregnancy-related and non-pregnancy related causes of death. Pregnancy-related deaths stem from complications due to being pregnant. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 700 women die annually in the United States from pregnancy-related complications. These can include issues like high blood pressure, infection or hemorrhage. These deaths are typically reported by hospitals or other emergency medical care providers.
Non-pregnancy-related causes of maternal death include unrelated dynamics that can be medical or psychological. The Colorado Maternity Mortality Review Committee found that 24 non-pregnancy related deaths occurred in 2013, compared to only 14 in 2012. These deaths can include causes like auto accidents, health issues unrelated to the pregnancy, acts of self-harm, suicide and drug overdoses.
Mental Health Issues During Pregnancy
The rise of incidences of maternal death in the United States is alarming. Researchers need to understand the general nature of these deaths to implement meaningful solutions. Understanding the relationship between pregnancy and addiction may be vital for mental health professionals to understand increases in maternal deaths. Addiction treatment is still possible and may be imperative, during pregnancy. Women who have a history of drug use or are vulnerable to addiction need additional support through pregnancy. There are a variety of initiatives that can be valuable to assist pregnant women or new mothers who struggle with drug addiction issues, including prenatal care partnerships and substance abuse treatment centers for pregnant or postpartum women.
Prenatal Care Partnerships
Prenatal care presents a natural opportunity for women to find mental health support. As they already attend regular medical appointments, providing mental health services in the same location could be a simple and powerful solution. A 2019 bill in the Colorado legislator includes new standards to mandate substance abuse training as a facet of renewing medical licenses. This requirement means that obstetrics and gynecology professionals attending to pregnant women will understand how to identify and address substance abuse issues in their patients.
Substance Abuse Treatment Centers for Pregnant or Postpartum Women
Specialized treatment facilities are required for pregnant or postpartum women who are seeking recovery for drug or alcohol addiction. These services are essential for a variety of reasons:
- Postpartum depression can lead to relapse
- Childcare is essential if new mothers are going to participate in treatment
- Pregnant or new mothers require unique lodging arrangements
- Intensive medical care is required for any kind of therapy or treatment during or after pregnancy
The number of facilities that accommodate pregnant or postpartum women in drug recovery is often limited. Colorado’s recent steps to provide better funding and support for parenting women in substance use treatment include:
- Programs for women up to one year postpartum
- Better needs assessment metrics for care providers
- State and federal funding assistance
- Funds for high-risk families that provide for pregnant and parenting women
- Child care resources
The state of Colorado recognizes the crisis of women who end their lives because of substance abuse addiction. It is a vital task that is capturing the attention of legislators. Active steps are being taken to provide better research and resources for women in need of treatment.
Bardin, Lauren et al. “Understanding Maternal Deaths in Colorado: An Analysis of Mortality from 2008-2013.” Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, October 2017. Accessed July 12, 2019.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Pregnancy-Related Deaths.” February 26, 2019. Accessed July 12, 2019.
Colorado General Assembly. “HB19-1122 Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Maternal Mortality Review Committee.” 2019. Accessed July 12, 2019.
Colorado General Assembly. “HB19-1193 Behavioral Health Supports for High-Risk Families.” 2019. Accessed July 12, 2019.
Colorado General Assembly. “SB19-228 Substance Use Disorders Prevention Measures.” 2019. Accessed July 12, 2019.