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FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Women in the United States are more likely to die following pregnancy-related complications -- compared to women in other high-income countries.

This is according to a report by The Commonwealth Fund, which looks at maternal care in the US, as well as countries like Japan, Germany or Canada.

"We're the only one who doesn't have a universal health care system," said Dr. Robin Linscheid Janzen, with Fresno County Dept. of Public Health. "We don't utilize birthing support providers, like midwives, as well as our public health nurses."

These are just a few of the factors also contributing to the trend Fresno County is seeing.

Numbers from the county health department show about 20 maternal deaths per 100,000 births, and about 76 percent happen after delivery.

"We are seeing many of them occur either the day of delivery or in that initial six weeks."

According to Dr. Linscheid Janzen, the number one cause is cardiovascular disease.

"In Fresno County, we rank in the top percentile in the state for chronic disease burden," she explained. "We see a lot more diabetes, hypertension, and obesity -- all of these conditions that put our pregnant or birthing patients at risk."

Fresno County has developed new protocols in hospitals to identify who's most at risk so precautions can be taken. The health department is also working with the Black Wellness and Prosperity Center to train doulas. Lastly, with high obesity rates, the county is making sure they have the right equipment for patients.

"These can put them at even higher risk for complication if we're not able to treat them in the same way as our patients who may have a lower BMI," Dr. Linscheid Janzen said.

According to health experts, maternal deaths are preventable, which is why there's now a huge need for more access to high-quality care.

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