INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - When a woman has a baby in Indiana, her risk of dying is double the national average. The families left behind want to know why.
LaDonna Fields and her husband Stacy Fields remember the day her 26-year-old daughter Tana Tyler was due to give birth to a boy. It was supposed to be a joyous occasion. The family brought gifts and waited to hear the news. Then, before they realized something was wrong, Tana was gone.
"I mean it was fast," said Stacy. "The door opened and the chaplain walked in. And I mean he came straight to us."
The family said Tana had a high-risk pregnancy and was preeclamptic. That meant she had high blood pressure, which put her and the baby at risk.
She was at IU Methodist where she had an emergency C-section and then died of internal bleeding-- something the family said doctors were not able to locate in time.
"She was a daughter, a mother, a sister, a cousin, a granddaughter, a niece, a friend," said LaDonna. "This changed my whole family."
FOX59 reached out to IU Methodist for a comment. A spokesperson wrote:
"We are not able to comment on matters involving litigation"
Sadly, Tana's family isn't alone.
More than 700 women die every year in the U.S. during or right after delivery. It's a shocking maternal mortality rate that makes us the worst developed country in the world in which to give birth.
"We are about the same maternal mortality rate as countries like Iraq and Vietnam," explained Jeena Siela with March of Dimes.
She said among all the states, Indiana ranks the 3rd worst in the entire country. Fifty Hoosier women died in 2016.
The March of Dimes has been following this trend and the research so far shows said women are dying from a variety of reasons:
- A previous heart condition
- A pregnancy complication like Preeclampsia
- Treatment a mother receives during pregnancy like complications from an Epidural
Even more troubling, African-American women are three times more likely to die giving birth.
Then there are also the hundreds of near-misses. For every mom who dies giving birth in the U.S., there are about 100 more women who almost die.
Lindsey Berry is one of them.
"It's hard to think about what would've happened," she said.
Lindsey was pregnant with her third child, but on delivery day, she said, she passed out each time she got an Epidural.
"I go unconscious, my blood pressure starts to drop, and more adrenaline shots," she recalled being told by her husband as he watched nurses rushing into to bring her blood pressure back up. "He thought that they were losing me."
Thankfully, Lindsey woke up and delivered her son. But she's still trying to make sense of what happened.
"What if I hadn't have woke up?" she asked.
That's why Indiana lawmakers are stepping in. They just passed a law that creates a maternal mortality review committee to figure out what's going on.
In the meantime, groups like the March of Dimes are raising awareness about problems like Maternity Care Deserts.
Thirty-two counties in Indiana either don't have obstetrician services or a hospital where a woman can deliver a baby.
"In order to get access to basic services like prenatal care or even a hospital to deliver their baby, they have to travel over county lines, maybe even multiple county lines to do so," said Siela.
Tana's family is now raising her two young kids: a 12-year-old daughter and the 4-year-old son she never got to meet. He has cerebral palsy.
"We have to do everything for him. Brushing his teeth. Washing him up. Changing his diaper. Feeding him," said Stacy.
"It's hard, and it's very emotional because he wants to do things himself," added LaDonna.
Yet through their pain, they are sharing their story in hopes it might save another woman getting ready for what's supposed to be one of the most joyous days of a mother's life.
"Ask as many questions as you can," urged Stacy. "It's scary to know that you're going in to get something done that's done every day around the world and there's a possibility that you're not coming home. That's terrifying."
Tana's family has filed a lawsuit against IU Methodist to secure a future for 4-year-old Legend who will need care for the rest of his life.
Her attorneys at Stewart & Stewart said:
"Tana's case is currently in the Medical Review Process. The Final Submission is going to be forwarded to the Panel shortly. The Panel will then be able to meet to determine if they think the providers met the standard of care."
Tips for a safer pregnancy
If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, the March of Dimes has some tips for you to keep in mind for a safer delivery:
If you’re planning pregnancy
- Get a preconception checkup. This is a checkup you get before pregnancy to help make sure you’re healthy when you get pregnant. Pregnancy-related death can be caused by health conditions you have before pregnancy. Finding out about them and getting treatment before you get pregnant can help prevent death.
- Tell your provider about any medicines you take. You may need to change to a medicine that’s safer for you and your baby during pregnancy. Make sure any health care provider who prescribes you medicine knows you’re trying to get pregnant.
- Protect yourself from infections. For example, talk to your provider about vaccinations (like the flu shot) that can help protect you from certain diseases. Wash your hands with soap and water after using the bathroom or blowing your nose. Stay away from people who have infections. Don’t eat raw meat, fish or eggs. Use a condom to protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections (also called STIs). And don’t touch cat poop.
- Get to a healthy weight. Eat healthy foods and do something active every day.
- Don’t smoke, or use harmful drugs. Tell your provider if you need help to quit.
- Go for your first prenatal care visit as soon as you think you’re pregnant.
- Go to all your prenatal care checkups, even if you’re feeling fine. This can help your health care provider spot and treat any health problems that may affect your pregnancy.
- Tell your provider about any medicines you take. Make sure any provider who prescribes you medicine knows that you’re pregnant.
- If you’re at risk for preeclampsia, talk to your provider about taking low-dose aspirin to help reduce your risk. Preeclampsia is a serious condition that condition that can cause pregnancy-related death.
- Protect yourself from infections. For example, talk to your provider about vaccinations (like the flu shot) that can help protect you from certain diseases. Wash your hands with soap and water after using the bathroom or blowing your nose. Stay away from people who have infections. Don’t eat raw meat, fish or eggs. Use a condom to protect yourself from STIs. And don’t touch cat poop.
- Eat healthy foods and do something active every day.
- Don’t smoke, drink alcohol or use harmful drugs. Tell your provider if you need help to quit.
- Tell your provider right away if you have you have any signs or symptoms of conditions that can cause pregnancy-related death. These can include chest pain, trouble breathing, dizziness and swelling in the legs, hands or face.
- If you’re worried about anything or something doesn’t seem right, call your provider.
- If you’re having a medical emergency, call 911.