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Maternal Health Care That Covers More Than Just Childbirth

States are tackling issues outside of the hospital, including employment, education and child care.

By Hannah Edelheit  |  June 11, 2024
Marie Pinkney Delaware
Beth Mizell Louisiana

Maternal health isn’t just about moms.

“This issue is in more than just the health care system, it’s in more than just the doctor’s office,” Delaware Sen. Marie Pinkney (D) says. “We need to look at how it impacts people in every aspect of their life.”

Pinkney and Louisiana Sen. Beth Mizell (R) joined a recent NCSL Town Hall to discuss maternal health care challenges.

Both senators are part of NCSL’s Maternal Health and Child Fellows Program, a yearlong fellowship that connects legislators to one another and to experts to learn about and discuss maternal health policy.

Both lawmakers see the fellowship as an opportunity to find solutions they can bring back to their states. Pinkney adds that she wants to focus on the disparities that affect Black women in health care.

Both senators also focus on issues outside of the hospital, including employment, education and child care. These issues can extend to fathers and co-parents as maternal health affects everyone, Pinkney says.

New moms need access to transportation, nutritional options and postpartum care, Mizell says. Additional challenges such as a lack of grocery stores or telehealth options can create a “nightmare scenario for a mother,” she says.

“Those are the challenges and I’m hoping that we can do something to rectify that, whether it’s urban or rural, and I think that is going to be the focus as we move on,” Mizell says.

Both senators have passed bills to support mothers and families in every part of pregnancy, including after the baby is born.

The 2022 Delaware “Mombinus” legislative package, which Pinkney passed with primary sponsor Rep. Melissa Minor-Brown, aims to help pregnant women before, during and after childbirth. The package extends Medicaid coverage for a year after giving birth.

“What we know is that women, once they give birth, are incredibly likely to fall victim to maternal mortality issues up to a year postpartum,” Pinkney says.

The package includes bias and competency training for health care workers to address racial disparities in health care.

The package also prevents pregnant women who are incarcerated from being restrained, and provides Medicaid-covered doula services, which can lead to a more “positive maternal outcome,” Pinkney says.

Mizell co-sponsored legislation to support mothers in substance abuse disorder facilities. The bill (SB 268), enacted in 2022, allows pregnant women to receive treatment for an opioid use disorder.

“I had been told by labor and delivery nurses and the pregnancy centers that we weren’t really treating the pregnant mother who had a drug problem in a way that was conducive to her well-being or the well-being of her infant,” Mizell says. “(It) kind of opened the door for a good conversation,” about what needed to change.

Watch the full town hall recording.

Hannah Edelheit is an intern in NCSL’s Communications Division.

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