Improving health for Iowa moms and babies

Maternal mortality in Iowa has increased at an alarming rate in recent years. Part of the problem: Shrinking health care options and workforce. That’s why we’re proposing the Healthy Moms and Babies Act.

Maternal health in Iowa is experiencing a crisis. Maternal mortality has increased at an alarming rate in recent years. Maternal deaths went from fewer than 15 in 2008 to almost 50 in 2019, according to Dr. Stephen Hunter, co-director for Perinatal Care at the Iowa Department of Public Health.

A big part of the problem is Iowa’s shrinking health care options and workforce:

  • Iowa has seen 34 labor and delivery units close since 2000.
  • Our state has the lowest number of obstetricians per capita in the country; 64% of rural Level 1 hospitals have no obstetrician on staff.
  • Iowa has a high rate of cesarean births, as a result, which can lead to future health problems.

About 40% of births in Iowa are covered by Medicaid, but privatized Medicaid doesn’t cover the costs for delivering babies if health care providers follow the recommended standard of care, so hospitals lose money by providing labor and delivery services.

That’s why we are proposing the Healthy Moms and Babies Act (SF 2062), which will:

  • Adjust Medicaid rates so that hospitals are adequately reimbursed for the care they provide.
  • Ensure labor and delivery units use proven practices—known as “safety bundles”—that save lives during delivery.
  • Expand home visiting services for pregnant women, new moms and babies.

Changes to reproductive health care have real consequences

During a recent visit to the State Capitol, former State Senator Chris Brase of Muscatine shared his daughter’s devastating pregnancy experience during the summer of 2019.

Sen. Brase’s daughter experienced a loss of amniotic fluid at around 24 weeks, meaning that her baby’s lungs and other vital organs would be harmed and her baby would not survive birth.

Because of legislation approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed by the Governor in 2017, she was forced to continue the pregnancy, risking her own health, while knowing that her baby would suffer after birth.

She was only able to receive the medical care she needed when sepsis set in and her life was at risk.