Senator Ruiz Introduces Package to Improve State’s Maternal Healthcare

Trenton – Senate President Pro Tempore M. Teresa Ruiz has introduced several bills on maternity care, the final of which, concerning postpartum care, was introduced today. The bills come in response to New Jersey’s increasing maternal mortality rate and the state’s ranking as 47th in maternal mortality nationwide.

“We have high quality hospitals all over New Jersey, yet women have a greater chance of dying due to childbirth here than they do in 46 other states,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “Black women are five times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications. That is absolutely unacceptable and has gone on for far too long, women of color deserve quality care. In some instances, it is a matter of life and death which is why it is critical that we offer additional support.”

According to a report from nine maternal mortality review committees, over 60 percent of pregnancy-related deaths in 2018 were preventable. The report discussed patient and family factors such as lack of knowledge on warning signs and the need to seek care. It also highlighted provider fault including misdiagnosis, ineffective treatment and breakdowns in coordination between providers.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists found that as many as 40 percent of women in the US do not attend a postpartum visit. Research indicates that postpartum education and care lead to lower rates of maternal mortality, as many of the risk factors for post-delivery complications may not be identifiable before a woman’s discharge after birth.

The final bill of the package, S-3466, provides that all New Jersey mothers are entitled to one cost-free postpartum home visit after each birth. The home visit to the mother and the baby, by a licensed healthcare provider, would occur within the first seven days following delivery to ensure proper recovery from childbirth.

In addition to several bills sponsored by her colleagues in the Senate, Senator Ruiz has sponsored six bills, along with her postpartum bill, to improve the quality of care new and expecting mothers receive.

 S. 3375 – Establishes a maternal health care pilot program to evaluate shared decision-making tools developed by the Department of Health (DOH) and used by birthing centers and hospitals providing maternity services.

 S. 3376 – Requires the DOH to establish the “My Life, My Plan” program to support women of childbearing age in developing reproductive life plans.

 S. 3377 – The “Listening to Mothers Survey Act” requires the DOH to establish a survey to evaluate and improve maternity care access and services. The survey would measure patients’ satisfaction with the quality of maternity care services they received and collect volunteered data on patient backgrounds.

 S. 3378 – Prohibits Medicaid, State Health Benefits and School Employee Health Benefits from covering certain non-medically indicated early elective deliveries.

 S. 3455 – Requires emergency departments to ask women of childbearing age about their recent pregnancy history.

 SR. 121 – Encourages the DOH to develop a set of standards for respectful care at birth and to conduct a public outreach initiative to promote these standards to women and integrate the standards into routine clinical care and community engagement.

The package has been referred to the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee. The committee approved S-3377 today.