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Health Officials Concerned about Utah’s High Rate of Blood Transfusions after Delivery

The rate of blood transfusions administered to mothers in Utah delivery rooms is twice the national average. That’s according to a new report from the state Department of Health.

The health department reports that the number of Utah women receiving transfusions per year ranges from 300 to 350, and there are more than four times as many hemorrhages reported. On average, over a five year period, Utah’s rate of transfusion after delivery is double that of the US. Laurie Baksh is Manager of the state’s Maternal and Infant Health program. She doesn’t know why Utah moms seem to be losing so much blood, but she has a theory.

“The more children a woman has, the higher her risk of having a hemorrhage post-delivery”, Baksh says. “We know that we in Utah have a higher rate of women with larger families, and so that may be a reason.”

But it’s not clear if the cause is related to the mothers’ health or the care they’re receiving in the delivery room. The National Quality Forum, a nonprofit organization that works to improve healthcare, has said that a higher rate of maternal transfusions may indicate an inability to prevent or manage blood loss during delivery. Severe ramifications include maternal death. They also note that examining these transfusion rates should encourage hospitals to review their procedures for preventing hemorrhage.

“We looked at our data for the last seven years and maternal hemorrhage was the third leading cause of pregnancy-related deaths in our state,” Baksh says. “That’s the worst possible outcome of a hemorrhage, and we want to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

The state Department of Health has invited hospitals across Utah to participate in a project that will examine current practices, adopt policies that will prevent hemorrhages and help medical facilities to be ready when they do occur. Baksh says she believes this effort will improve the quality of care and prevent future deaths.

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
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