Why are MORE moms dying?
We are the only industrialized country with RISING maternal mortality rates.
Perhaps, like me, you are shocked. On average, 2 women die each day following childbirth in the U.S. One Hundred more have complications severe enough to be re-admitted to the hospital. I'm still struggling to get my mind around this.
But, the good news is, 40-50% of these deaths are preventable. And, 30-40% of severe complications are preventable. Where do we begin?
1: WOMEN-CENTERED CARE
We have a history of focusing on the babies to the exclusion of the mothers. The moms are often an after-thought in prenatal care, birthing and certainly in Postpartum. A woman's emotional, mental, and physical health have a tremendous impact on their baby's health and survival. What if we started truly listening and responding to women's needs and concerns?
Tragically, the stats are far more bleak for minority women! "African American women are five times more likely to die as their white counterparts."
2: FOLLOW-UP CARE FOR HIGH RISK PATIENTS
Most maternal deaths are from obstetric hemorrhage and severe hypertension or preeclampsia. Typically, these moms leave the hospital and are not scheduled for any follow-up care for 6 weeks.
Dr. Karen Koscica said that all high risk patients should be seen 1-2 weeks postpartum.
3. POSTPARTUM RECOVERY EDUCATION
While most other countries and cultures have a lying-in period (where new mom stays in bed for 2-5 weeks), we have NOTHING here. Often just discharge papers saying not to drive for 2 weeks. These moms are coming home 2-3 days after birth, some after major abdominal surgery, and there is no support or help in place.
The physical demands of postpartum recovery are HUGE....especially since most women are trying to heal from pregnancy, birth, and possibly surgery, while waking every 2-3 hours to care for a newborn and breastfeeding!
We can do better! We can prepare moms for what to expect and help them choose postpartum care. We can educate partners, friends and family on how to take care of mothers while they recover. I hope to see Postpartum Doulas covered and or the expense reimbursed by insurance...But, in the meantime, we can realize that the stakes are literally life or death.
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Postpartum Doula, Breastfeeding Counselor, Mother of Three.