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Heitkamp leads Grand Forks discussion on maternal care

After the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported more than twice as many pregnancy-related deaths in 2014 than it did in 1987, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., discussed possible solutions Friday in Grand Forks with state pregnancy experts and mothers.

"We're the only developed country in the world where we see an increase," said Heitkamp.

Earlier this week, the Senate passed a bill requesting $38 million toward expanding maternal health programs and $12 million toward collecting better data. Heitkamp is still waiting for the Senate to pass a bill she co-sponsored earlier this summer with U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., which calls for stronger Maternal Mortality Review Committees (MMRC), state-level groups in charge of preventing pregnancy-related deaths and improving maternal health.

North Dakota is one of 15 states without an MMRC.

She said she wants North Dakota to get an MMRC and benefits from the combined $50 million the Senate requested toward maternal care.

"These are dollars I hope North Dakota doesn't pass on," Heitkamp said.

Suzanne Nelson, a mother of two who shared her experience with pregnancy-related complications.

"As doctors, health care providers and women, we need to understand the data," Nelson said. "It's really something women we need to take seriously."

Dr. Maridee Shogren, a clinical associate professor at UND and a certified nurse-midwife at Valley Community Health Centers, called for more planned pregnancies and improved access to education. The way things are right now, Shogren said, many women don't spend enough time with their providers after childbirth to learn about the physical and emotional changes that can occur postpartum, including risk of hemorrhage, infection and depression. 

"We must educate Mom about what happens when she gets home," Shogren said. 

Shawnda Schroeder, a research assistant professor at the UND Center for Rural Health, asked Heitkamp to make sure there's a representative for the rural community on any future MMRC. "We're not going to know those issues if nobody is on the committee," Schroeder said.

Emily Allen

Allen joined the Grand Forks Herald to cover local government and politics May 2018. Call her at 701-780-1102, email her at eallen@gfherald.com or follow her on Twitter, @Emily_theHerald.

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