Death rates among pregnant women in Colorado are climbing. Suicide and overdose are to blame. |

Death rates among pregnant women in Colorado are climbing — suicide, overdose to blame

To counteract the rising mortality figure, the state strengthened a death review committee and plans to expand drug treatment

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The meeting always begins with a moment of silence for the moms who are dead, a reminder to consider the humanity behind the data they are about to discuss. 

And then the doctors, midwives and mental health experts dive into the records to find the reasons pregnant women and new mothers died in Colorado. They review medical files, prescriptions, coroners’ reports and, sometimes, suicide notes. 

Half of all deaths in this state among pregnant women and those within the first year after giving birth are the result of self-harm — defined as suicide and overdose. While maternal deaths from homicide and car crashes are declining in Colorado, mental health-related deaths, including opioid overdoses, are on the rise.

And as the overall death rate of pregnant women is dropping in other industrialized nations — it is rising in the United States.

The key to figuring out why — and to saving lives from pregnancy-related medical complications, drug abuse and suicide — is maternal-mortality review committees that investigate those deaths with nuance, said Colorado physicians and policymakers. 

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