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Maternal mortality and midwifery discussed in Arkansas House committee

An Arkansas House Committee Discussed Maternal Health Monday.
Bee Harris
An Arkansas House committee discussed maternal health and a shortage of midwives in the state at a meeting Monday.

The Arkansas House Committee on Aging, Children And Youth, Legislative & Military Affairs met Monday to discuss prenatal care.

Maternal Mortality

Arkansas has one of the highest rates of maternal mortalitynationwide. Republican Rep. Julie Mayberry says she wants to do more work to prevent maternal deaths.

“Maybe if a nurse had been by that person's side two or three weeks after birth,” she said. “Maybe that death of that mom could have been prevented.”

Family Connects International is an organization that sends nurses to new mothers in the weeks after they give birth. The organization does work across the country and has operations in Union County, Ark. Melea Waters, the organization's senior policy director, said the service is at no charge to the new mother.

“These visits are scheduled about three weeks postpartum,” she said. “Typically, after mom has baby there is a gap in service for mom. Mom isn't going back to see her physician until she is about six weeks postpartum.”

Beyond checking the health of the new mother, nurses provide other services. They check for child maltreatment, the mental health of the mother and help connect mothers to other parenting resources in the area. They typically meet with the new mothers for an hour and a half.


The term “nurse midwife” pertains to someone with either a master's degree or a Ph.D. in midwifery. That’s the health science dealing with pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period.

Brennan Straka, who works as a midwife, says they serve an important role in the community.

“We reduce the number of interventions for mom and baby,” she said. “We provide a lot of support for mom so she can get through the labor process. And also, we have very high patient satisfaction rates.”

But Straka said many qualified midwives are leaving the profession. According to her, there’s a shortage of people in the profession in Arkansas.

“There are 14 of us providing full scope care,” she said “Eight at UAMS, there is a very well-established practice there of certified nurse midwives who as of just a couple of years ago are taking their patents through the experience of pregnancy and postpartum.”

Straka said neighboring states have more people choosing to enter the profession. For example, Missouri has over a hundred midwives, five times the number Arkansas has.

Josie Lenora is the Politics/Government Reporter for Little Rock Public Radio.