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One State’s Approach to Maternal Deaths: Free Nurse Visits After Birth

Prescious Fondren | July 29, 2021 | New York Times |


New Jersey has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country. The governor will sign a bill enabling new parents to receive free at-home wellness checks from registered nurses.

New Jersey is one of the most dangerous states in the country for women to give birth, particularly Black women, who are seven times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications in the state than white women.

A new bill establishing a universal home nurse visitation program for newborns is designed to help address that. The bill, which Gov. Philip D. Murphy is set to sign on Thursday, is part of a broader plan to reduce the maternal mortality rate in the state, which experts say is the fourth highest in the country.

For every 100,000 live births in New Jersey last year, more than 26 women died because of pregnancy-related complications, according to America’s Health Rankings’ analysis of C.D.C. data. The data showed clear racial disparities.

Even though she had a network of support when she gave birth to her daughter, State Senator Teresa Ruiz, a sponsor of the bill, said having a lactation specialist come to her home made her feel more secure about her transition into motherhood.

“I had a good structure of support all around,” she said, “and I can tell you that even with all of that, and understanding my rights and advocating for myself as best as I could, nothing gave me that sense of just ease until that nurse came to my house and said to me that what I was doing was right.”

Nurses will be specially trained to go into the home and assess both the mother and baby, checking for physical problems, issues with breastfeeding, postpartum mood disorder, and any social factors affecting the family. Ms. Ruiz said the home visit is also a chance for the nurse to connect families to other important resources they may need.


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