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Baltimore Sees Increase In Maternal Mortality; Officials Work To Reverse Trend

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- With some of the best hospitals in the world right in our backyard, the number of mothers dying after childbirth has doubled over the past two decades.

Jessica Kartalija reports there's a push to reverse the trend here in Baltimore.

Merck For Mothers has been helping women in 20 other countries but recent studies have found mortality rates in the U.S. are getting worse, due in part to chronic conditions.

Twenty years ago, Alicia Pulley gave birth to healthy twin girls. Then things took a turn for the worse.

"She felt like something wasn't right and she went back to the doctor. They said she had a cold, she should take cold medicine and she should be fine in a few days. In a few days, she wasn't fine; she was dead," said Doral Pulley.

Their story is all too familiar. Despite advances in medicine, a shocking number of mothers are dying after giving birth. Maryland, and specifically Baltimore, has one of the worst rates of maternal mortality in the country.

Dr. Priya Agrawal is executive director of Merck for Mothers.

"Every woman deserves the right care at the right time at the right place. We want to make sure there's a standard approach to dealing with these complications," Agrawal said.

Now, Merck for Mothers is partnering with Baltimore Healthy Start with programs designed to improve maternal health before, during and after pregnancy.

"Added resources for care coordination, linking women to the clinical pieces that will help their care and non-clinical care like nutritionists and exercise," said Alma Roberts.

Merck for Mothers has been active in 20 different countries. Now they're focused on saving lives right here in Maryland.

Out of every 100,000 births in Baltimore, almost 84 women die of pregnancy-related issues. Most of these deaths are preventable.

The state of Maryland is ranked 45th in the nation when it comes to pregnancy-related deaths.

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