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New legislation hopes to improve maternal health care across Arizona

(KTAR News Photo/Ali Vetnar)

PHOENIX — A package of bills introduced Tuesday hopes to improve pregnancy outcomes, and maternal and infant health across Arizona.

Emotional stories were shared by mothers who have suffered from postpartum depression.

Others told stories of their child’s tragic death they believe could have been prevented if there were additional screenings at birth for certain diseases.

But these stories and struggles are expected to be addressed in the legislation that was introduced by state Sens. Kate Brophy McGee and Heather Carter.

The two female leaders in the state legislature believe four bills could build upon previous progress other lawmakers have had during legislative sessions.

One of the bills, SB 1571, hopes to expand Arizona’s newborn screening panel by adding two different diseases to the screenings.

“When I look back over the years, I’ve had fellow legislators fight to add to that list of required tests,” Brophy McGee said. “These are two big disorders that if detected at birth can result in such good outcomes at far less expense.”

With prenatal mood and anxiety disorders affecting up to one in five new moms and their families, another bill is aimed at creating a “Maternal Mental Health Task Force.”

The bill would improve screenings for treating prenatal mood and anxiety disorders before a mother gives birth.

Other bills introduced by Brophy McGee and Carter include extending healthcare coverage for postpartum care, comprehensive dental benefits for pregnant women, improving access to birth control, prenatal care and OBGYNs across the state.

“We have an extreme shortage in the area of OBGYN and maternal healthcare,” Carter added. “There are parts of the state of Arizona that do not have a single OBGYN in the county.”

March of Dimes is an organization that works to improve the health of moms and babies by advocating for policies to protect them. They joined the state senators at the state legislature as they dropped of the bills.

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