Pregnant women in Louisiana die at a rate twice the national average, making the state the deadliest place in the country for having a baby.
A new study adds to the grisly statistics: Homicide is the number one cause of those deaths.
Medical researchers at Tulane and Louisiana State University spent a year studying 119 deaths among pregnant women in Louisiana.
They found that homicide topped obstetric issues like preeclampsia as the main cause of fatalities.
Maeve Wallace, the Tulane University researcher who authored the study, says little attention has been given to pregnancy’s biggest risk factor.
“We’re just hoping to shed light on violent death as something that’s happening with great magnitude in pregnant and postpartum women.”
They also found a strong correlation between pregnancy and domestic violence. Pregnant women are twice as likely to be killed as their female peers who are not pregnant.
"Pregnancy itself can be an added stressor in an already stressful situation, so a violent relationship can become fatal," Wallace explains.
Wallace says domestic violence should be treated as the public health threat that it is.
In a follow-up study, Wallace and her team are looking at state-level policies across the country that help with violence reduction and healthcare access.
"We are looking at expanded Medicaid, expanded Medicaid during pregnancy, and reproductive rights policies, which means women control whether or when they become pregnant. Also, intimate partner violence screening during prenatal care is really important to provide services in a violent situation."