Kristen Smith Column 1

This is the introduction of a multi-column series focused on maternal and infant health in Southeast Arkansas

I was raised in Monticello, and Monticello is where I am raising my family. I am proud to be an Arkansan, but as many of us know, Arkansas is not known as one of the healthiest states in our country. In fact, our state ranks 4th highest in maternal death rates, according to the CDC.

Lately in national news a focus on maternal health has brought to our attention that American women overall, not just in Arkansas, are at a higher risk of dying during or after childbirth. The most widely circulated may be the USA Today reporter Alison Young’s investigation on Deadly Deliveries, published in late July.

The high rate of women nationwide dying has been attributed to a lack of common best practices in the Labor & Delivery units of hospitals, and ensuring their postpartum care (medical care immediately following delivery), is focused on identifying and treating serious medical conditions appropriately. Investigations like these are important as they make sure hospitals are following proper protocols and they put the public on alert so that big changes can happen in the field of health care. That said, pregnant women in Arkansas may be understandably concerned when they read articles about how common it is for mothers to die after giving birth due to unfamiliar medical issues like “postpartum hemorrhage” and “preeclampsia.”

I hope that by writing a few columns I can calm some fears about giving birth in a state with a high-ranking maternal death rate, and make growing Arkansas families aware of the measures that are in place to protect mothers and infants. Arkansas is a great place to live and to grow your family, and there are established programs right here in Monticello that prevent maternal mortality.

Please check back for future columns about maternal and infant health in our area, including columns on statewide attention, patient and hospital responsibilities, risk factors, Mortality Prevention, and continued maternal and newborn health.

Kristen Smith, a registered nurse, is the director of labor & delivery, nursery, and education at Drew Memorial Health System in Monticello.