Smith hopes new law will reduce pregnancy-related deaths

The United States is the only industrial country to see an increasing number of pregnancy-related deaths. A new law aims to change that.

The Rural Maternal and Obstetric Modernization of Services (MOMS) Act, co-sponsored by Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minnesota) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), was recently approved as part of a larger spending bill, taking new steps to reduce maternal mortality in rural areas.

Smith said the issue for women in rural areas "has almost everything to do with lack of access to care."

"The challenges that result during pregnancy often happen…before you deliver your baby. And one of the biggest indicators of problems will be if women just don’t have access to good quality care before their baby is born, that allows them to understand if they have a problem that’s developing that they might not be aware of," she told WDIO News.

Smith said the bill will make it easier for rural providers to offer prenatal care and expand access to telehealth.

"I’ve talked to moms who live in greater Minnesota. It’s really hard to travel great distances to get to your obstetrician, especially if you have other little ones or you have a job and you have to drive a long way, and so this is going to really help to to solve that problem," Smith said.

One provision will establish new training for physicians and other medical professionals who work in rural settings. Smith said rural providers told her they don’t see that many pregnant moms, giving them less experience with maternity.

"One of the things that will happen with this legislation is it will create training tools to allow providers to keep their skills sharp and and be able to…practice even when they might not be delivering a lot of babies," Smith said.

Smith said there is not currently a great amount of information on maternal mortality, and said another part of the legislation will make sure that data and information is being gathered to understand the problem.