Many Georgia women are left unprotected when it comes to their pregnancies and their babies' lives, according to a report released this week by the March Of Dimes.
The nonprofit's president, Stacey Stewart, said lack of accessible maternity care constitutes a "real health crisis" nationwide.
"We have about 700 women who died in the last year as a result of pregnancy and childbirth," Stewart said. "Another 50,000 women almost died, meaning they become so ill as a result of pregnancy and childbirth that they almost passed away."
The crisis is a result of "maternity care deserts," which Stewart described as a lack of options for pregnant women.
In Georgia 37 of the 159 counties are without any obstetric providers or hospitals that offers obstetric care, Stewart said. And many women don't have health insurance, despite the availability of Medicaid.
The deaths that occur often stem from chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes that could be managed with proper health care during pregnancy.
"About 60 percent of all the cases of maternal mortality, meaning women that die as a result of pregnancy and childbirth, are avoidable," Stewart said. "If women had access to the care they need when they needed it, we probably could save those lives."
The March Of Dimes hopes to raise awareness of maternity care deserts and legistlation before Congress now that could help expand healthcare in rural areas. The organization is using the hashtag #BlanketChange.
“We certainly want to make sure that all the members of Congress, Republican and Democrat, understand that if they are going to serve in Congress, there are many important decisions that they can make,” Stewart said. “They can change these outcomes for moms and babies.”