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Legislation would investigate deaths of expecting or new mothers

Trevor Siegfried of Allentown went from one of the best times in his life…

“This fall we had our third son. He was born in October. Brought him home from the hospital. Had the holidays with him,” said Siegfried.

…to one of the worst.

It was January when his wife Rebecca took their newborn son to meet some friends for dinner, and she collapsed in the parking lot of the restaurant.

“The official cause of death was cardiac arrhythmia of unknown etiology. Which is basically death of the heart muscle somehow related to pregnancy,” said Siegfried.

More women die pregnancy related deaths in the United States than any other country.

Doctors we spoke with say the odds of having a death related to pregnancy are about 6 in 100,000, but even just one death is one too many.

“We’re very effective at looking at cancer registries and we’re effective at looking at infant mortality. And there’s lots of systems set up to look at every other type of tragedy that could happen and make improvements. And maternal mortality is really something that hasn’t been evaluated,” said Dr. Lynne Coslett-Charlton with the American College of OBGYN.

Until now…

Pennsylvania is one of about only a dozen states left that does not yet have a program in place to investigate maternal mortality.

In 2006, California established a committee to investigate deaths of mothers either during or shortly after pregnancy and since then, the maternal mortality rate has dropped 55 percent.

This week, the house and senate in Pennsylvania both unanimously passed a bill to follow in California's footsteps.

“Really, this committee will help provide better information, more accurate data that we can then use for our policy recommendations,” said Rep. Ryan Mackenzie, who championed the bill.

Now the bill goes to the governor for approval, and will likely be up and running shortly after.

“If they can learn anything from looking at these deaths, that would be a major, major accomplishment,” said Siegfried.

Representative Mackenzie tells us the committee will fall under the Department of Health, and will come at no extra cost to the state.