CONWAY (KATV) — According to the Center for Disease Control, pregnancy-related deaths are on the rise, and Arkansas' death rate is one of the highest in the nation.
The statistic took Conway Regional Hospital OBGYN Amy Johnson by surprise.
"When we first heard about it, locally, we were just really shocked by it," she said.
While her hospital doesn't see this, maternal mortality rates across the country are on the rise, and Arkansas ranks 47th in the nation for nearly the highest amount of pregnancy deaths in the U.S.
"I had to look at the data myself and was like, ‘well, this is real,’" Johnson said.
Many southern states are also following this troubling trend.
Johnson says Arkansas is struggling with this in part due to the obesity rates in the state and the issues it can cause if a pregnant woman is overweight.
"A much higher risk of hypertension and infections, especially if they had a C-section," Johnson said.
That risk only increases with diabetes.
Johnson says helping rural areas with things like prenatal care will create a healthier Arkansas.
"Even though it's not happening right here at Conway Regional,” she said, “we need to target these areas and help other communities band together and help these women."
She and several other physicians are doing just that, by partnering with legislators to try and create ways to spread education on lowering the mortality rate.
"Knowledge is key and so now that we have this knowledge of us being one of the lower-ranked states, we can all work together and really improve this and save some lives," said Johnson.
The CDC says that most of these pregnancy deaths can be avoided with proper health care.
The report shows that black women have a significantly higher maternal mortality rate than white women.
In response, the Arkansas Department of Health is working toward creating a maternal mortality review board that will review mortality cases to try and improve education and process recommendations for hospitals.