BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – The Louisiana Department of Health says the statewide Cesarean section delivery rate dropped to 28 percent from 33 percent in 2021.

“Very proud to say that between August 2018 to May 2020, we were able to reduce severe maternal morbidity by 35 percent, by 45 percent for black women and we were able to reduce severe maternal morbidity from hypertension by 12 percent,” said Veronica Gillispie- Bell, the medical director for Louisiana Perinatal Quality Collaborative.

It is not a secret that Louisiana hospitals have the nation’s highest maternal death rate and second-highest infant death rate. Bell says keeping the numbers low is a priority. 

“The birthing person just really needs to understand is that hospitals are working to put best practices in place to reduce preventable causes of maternal morbidity and all woman should feel safe coming to the birthing facilities and they should ask questions,” Bell said.

With new initiatives like the breastfeeding program, called Gift 3.0, experts believe this will benefit Louisiana’s low breastfeeding rate.

“And really to get those rates up and to be able to get our breast milk feeding in place we have to start talking about it, working on it during the pregnancy and see that those rates go up and that moms are initiating and continuing,” said Bell.

The Woman, Infant, Children program, commonly known as WIC, has also improved by adding programs like peer-to-peer counseling and an app called Pacify where mothers can connect and know they are not alone.

“Over the last couple of years, we have expanded our services, converted to EBT benefits rather than paper vouchers. And our biggest news is that we have been spreading and expanding our breastfeeding peer counselor services. So that our moms have access to peer-to-peer support for successful breastfeeding and I think the greatest news of all is that we’re seeing our breastfeeding rates go up,” stated Jennifer Nicklas, the director of Bureau Nutrition Services.

And one mother says she believes that Louisiana is heading in the right direction.

“With this program, I’ve gotten the realization of how good words of affirmations is. That’s one thing that I really love about this program, ” said Region Three Breastfeeding counselor, Monique Mitchell.