LSU Health New Orleans Newsroom

Pregnant Women in Louisiana at Increased Risk for Homicide

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Pooja Mehta, M.D., clinical assistant professor of obstetrics & gynecology at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine, was a member of a research team that found 13% of deaths occurring during or up to one year after pregnancy among Louisiana women in 2016-17 were homicides. Results are published online in JAMA Pediatrics, available here.

The team conducted a retrospective analysis of vital records data provided by the Louisiana Department of Health of all cases of maternal death that year. Of the 119 maternal deaths, homicide accounted for more deaths than any other single cause. Mortality from homicide was 12.9 per 100,000 compared to mortality from hypertensive disorders at 3.2 or obstetric embolism at 4.8 per 100,000.

“This is distinct from findings that focus on ‘pregnancy-related’ death – a different definition of ‘maternal mortality,’ which are deaths confirmed on case review to be directly linked to or worsened by pregnancy,” notes Dr. Mehta, who was the Medical Director for the Louisiana Pregnancy-Associated Mortality Review at the time of the study. “The key finding from this study is that pregnant and postpartum women in Louisiana are more likely than others of the same age to experience a homicide.”

The authors write that their estimated rate is among the highest reported across a growing number of jurisdictions, possibly due in part to improved case ascertainment through the use of linked and verified data and/or reflecting a truly higher incidence within Louisiana, given the state’s consistently high incidence of homicide among women and girls.

“This points to the fact that pregnant people are in fact more vulnerable to violence--those who interact with pregnant and postpartum individuals inside and outside of the health system need to work together to better support these individuals,” adds Mehta. “We have to see each death as something that is worth preventing, and within our power to prevent.”

The research team also included Maeve E. Wallace, Ph.D., and Katherine P. Theall, Ph.D., at Tulane University; and Joia Crear-Perry, M.D., at the National Birth Equity Collaborative.

The study was supported by funding from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the National Institutes of Health.

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