DHEC report shows alarming increase in infant, mother death rates; Tidelands Health paving way for care

DHEC’s Bureau of Maternal and Child Health shared its annual report stating that South Carolina’s infant mortality rate rose 12% from 2020 to 2021.
Published: Apr. 13, 2023 at 10:35 AM EDT
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - Many new moms say holding their newborn for the first time is the happiest moment of their lives, but a new DHEC report shows more moms and their babies aren’t making it to their first birthday.

South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control released its latest reports on infant and maternal mortality rates showing an alarming increase.

DHEC’s Bureau of Maternal and Child Health shared its annual report stating that South Carolina’s infant mortality rate rose 12% from 2020 to 2021.

The death of babies born to non-Hispanic Black mothers also grew by almost 40% since 2017.

According to the report, the number of babies that died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS doubled, and the total number of babies that died is the highest South Carolina has seen in nearly a decade.

Also, African American babies continued to suffer disproportionately dying at a rate nearly 2.5 times higher than white babies.

The three leading causes of infant deaths in the state in 2021 were birth defects, disorders from premature births and pregnancy complications.

SIDS ranked 4th and accidental deaths ranked 5th with 25 of the 26 accidental deaths due to suffocation or strangulation in bed.

DHEC’s Maternal Morbidity and Mortality Review Committee (SCMMMRC) released its latest report showing maternal death rates were up 9.3% from the year before.

Similar to infant deaths, the SCMMMRC found that Black mothers experienced a 67% higher pregnancy-related mortality ratio than white mothers in both 2018 and 2019.

The three underlying causes of maternal deaths in 2018 and 2019 were heart complications, mental health issues, and loss of blood during birth.

DHEC’s director, Dr. Edward Simmers, said he believes the issue comes down to access to health care and lack of education. He said it will take the help of the community to bring down the alarming numbers.

“We need to find where the moms are that need good prenatal care and aren’t receiving it. We need to know where the moms aren’t able to get the care after they have the child, and we need to know where there are educational gaps. A lot of these local groups can help us fill those and they can provide that education,” said Simmers.

Simmers said there are still 14 counties in South Carolina without an OGBYN. However, Horry County is not one of them.

Tidelands Health is paving the way for infant and maternal care in South Carolina.

Tidelands Health is the first in South Carolina and the second in the nation to receive advanced certification in perinatal care. Tidelands uses research to give mothers and babies the best care before, during and after pregnancy.

Tidelands provides educational resources such as childbirth classes, lactation education sessions, a monthly breastfeeding support group and more.

Shelly Laird, Tideland’s Women’s and Children’s clinical director, said they focus on the health of each and every patient.

“I’m proud that Tidelands is taking that initiative and that we recognize we need it. I like to use the word individualized. We meet you where you are. We try to give you what you need to make sure that you can safely care for yourself and your baby,” said Laird.

Laird said they are already looking at the next steps to take based on DHEC’s new report. She said they want to take a closer look and follow up with a new mom’s cardiac care which could cut back on their leading cause of death.