What better Mother’s Day present could Texas give than a commitment to making motherhood safer? That is what Texas physicians are doing.

Despite some recent confusion over the exact numbers, there is no question that pregnancy, delivery, and the first year after giving birth are much too unhealthy for Texas women – especially Texas women of color.

We talk about “maternal mortality and morbidity.” But remember this: “mortality and morbidity” are just high-sounding words for “death and disease.” As physicians, we fight death and disease every day – for children, for car crash victims, for the elderly, and for the millions of Texans who live with chronic ailments like diabetes and heart disease.

And we fight death and disease for our mothers.

That’s why the Texas Medical Association (TMA) convened its Maternal Health Congress. It comprised the state’s leading experts on these problems – and the potential solutions. The congress heard 36 proposals and adopted a seven-point plan to make motherhood safer in Texas. It calls on all of us – physicians, state officials, lawmakers, and you – to help deliver this Mother’s Day present.

Here are the high points:

  • Ask Texas to request a federal waiver so we can build a tailored health benefits program for uninsured women of childbearing age. This program would provide the kinds of health care — including primary care, behavioral health care, preventive care and specialty care — to keep Texas women healthy before, during and after pregnancy.
  • Have TMA develop a formal education program to help Texas physicians better recognize and find treatment for women with substance use disorders. This must be a priority as drug overdoses are the leading cause of maternal death in Texas.
  • Eliminate unnecessary barriers and red tape preventing women from easily obtaining the most effective forms of contraception: intrauterine devices (IUDs) and implants. As the Maternal Health Congress report states, “Increasing women’s ability to plan and space their pregnancies leads to lower abortion rates, improved infant and maternal health, educational and economic opportunities for women and their families, and cost savings for the state.”
  • Have TMA develop a formal education program for physicians, nurses and hospitals on the best practices proven to prevent death and disease among women during and after pregnancy.
  • Have TMA develop a campaign to educate the public on how women can make motherhood safer by taking better care of themselves before they get pregnant, getting early and timely care when they become pregnant and knowing where to find help after their babies are born.

This plan goes before TMA’s House of Delegates next week in San Antonio. I am confident it will pass.

If you are lucky enough to still have your mother with you, please give her the flowers, or chocolates or dinner out that you had planned to give. And then tell her you are joining with Texas physicians to give the best Mother’s Day gift ever.

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Dr. Carlos J. Cardenas

Carlos J. Cardenas, MD, is a gastroenterologist in Edinburg and current president of the Texas Medical Association.